by Margret Echeverria
In this modern world, entertainment is often predictable and too polished because producers want a guaranteed return on their investment. But in our beloved New York City, if patrons pay the small price of frustrating parking West of 8th Avenue, navigating confusing entrances in hidden corners of office buildings and early curtain times, we can still find the grit of experimental theater. Click by Drew Pisarra directed by James Dean Palmer is now playing at The Tank, tipping our heads a bit to one side like we’re experiencing an abstract painting that moves and speaks to interpretations as solid as jell-o nailed to a wall.
Del (Mohammed Saleem) and Clare (Shuga Ohashi) are on two payphones and it looks like they might be orchestrating an illegal package exchange in what we soon realize is a sort of ’90’s time-scape which hovers in a warped spiritual dimension between Alphabet City and a divya yuga. The devil, Oona (Saman Peyman), picks up the line on a third payphone and we are dropped into the human struggle for morality and a sense of purpose against the vampiric material world. I’m reminded of Jesus meeting the serpent in the desert and Ravana meeting Time on the stairs. If the dialogue between Ohashi and Saleem were a little snappier it would have better landed the needed humor available in the text and made Peyman’s precisely measured speech even more sinister. Ohasi signals Clare’s hesitance to complete the sketchy transaction at hand by shifting her weight from one foot to the other over and over for the better part of the show. Toward the end of the piece, her character switches status from low to high, a change which seems to come from some other story on some other stage, but we’re grateful when Ohashi’s new physicality quiets our bladders.
Peyman is like a komodo dragon who has bitten her prey and is just waiting for the poison to take effect. Her long slow movements reflect her willful control of the universe. There’s a mimicry scene between Ohashi and Peyman that is quite chilling. Clare may harden in this chill or she might just be surrendering to madness . . . . or maybe owning her power as a woman? I honestly don’t know as we are left to interpret much of the show on our own. I’m very confused as to why Del is using Clare as his mule. It does not seem necessary to messenger this package loaded with metaphor and not deliver it himself. Given the brevity of the piece, an explanation of this choice would have been welcome. Saleem is very one note: A helpless man who can only make bad decisions and the text does not give him much else. I would have liked to have seen Saleem support the weak writing with a commitment to love, narcissism or despair in his work. He did give great face when he could find his light. I mean that literally.
The Faustian themes here are soggy, but the real downfall of this story is a palpable fear of gifting the characters true risk. The play does not need scrapping all together, but rather some cuts of the ranting that is written for cheap laughs and some honest expansion into life’s mysteries. What are you really asking us to contemplate, Pisarra?
Running time 50 minutes. The Tank NYC; 312 W 36th St.; Aug. 30th – Sep. 8 at 7PM (Wed., Thu. and Fri. nights). Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at Ovation Tix here.