THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
Unless the overview of a story is grossly inadequate, people seldom ask for both the summary and details. Presented as two monologues on a sparsely furnished stage, Mathew MacKenzie’s The Particulars provides both in sequence, beginning with the broad strokes of a harrowing situation, followed by a more deliberate design. Although each narrative is punctuated with compelling performances, the substance of the play is in the nitty-gritty, not the conspectus.
MacKenzie first regales us with a tale about a female minister named Trinidad who goes traipsing through the Congo, and then, in the second monologue, unpacks that concept by telling us about the damage that she leaves behind. The first story is told secondhand by Lillian (Fat Pig’s Ashlie Atkinson), a youth minister that subs in Trinidad’s place; the story begins with a cheeky tone until Lillian heads into the Congo herself to locate her “sister minister.” Subsequent to encountering pygmies, Lillian experiences a range of emotions that go from excitement to terror. While Atkinson handles these emotions well, her range as an actor cannot mask the abundant exposition in this segment. The ending of her monologue is poignant, but it’s a chore to get there.
The importance of specificity is validated when we meet Gordon (Brian Silliman), a member of Lillian’s congregation that refers to himself in the third person and who suffers from insomnia and OCD. Seemingly exacerbated by Trinidad’s departure, his conditions add to the eccentricity and enjoyment of this character, but there is so much more: Mr. Silliman, expertly directed by Jordana Williams, is not only a sight to see, clad in ill-fitting undies for a great deal of the time, but a marvel to hear—his voice quickens and slows, and has alternating hints of passion and malaise which are simply delightful.
Other pleasures can be found in the themes. One unexpected and altogether clever reveal in this play is that there is a lot more drama going on in Gordon’s apartment than in the violent forests of the Congo. This seems to be a commentary about churches taking on too many of the world’s problems while neglecting their own. And although the perceived relationship between the two characters and monologues will vary depending on the patron, Mackenzie seems to be commenting about the relativity of pain.
“When bad things are happening, the forests must be sleeping” is uttered by both characters with differing inflections; this line doesn’t comfort either character, but it does mark each one’s struggle with faith. And though the beginning of The Particulars is less successful than the ending, the notion that MacKenzie’s play is far more layered and surprising than its face value is something to believe in.
photo by Derrick Belcham
The New York International Fringe Festival
The Bridge Theatre Company at The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre
scheduled to end on August 26, 2012
for tickets, call 1-866-777-8932 or visit http://www.ticketweb.com