Off-Broadway Theater Review: POWERHOUSE (Sinking Ship Productions at New Ohio Theatre)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on November 9, 2014

in Theater-New York

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SINKING SHIP SAILS IN UNCHARTERED WATERS

My favorite element in Powerhouse, a delightful new devised play created by director Jon Levin, writer Josh Luxenberg and the Sinking Ship Ensemble, is the puppets: a cantankerous booby and a good-natured otter. The booby makes its first appearance when three 1940’s TV writers are brainstorming without success. Frustrated, they crumple a bunch of paper together and out of this bunch, as if spontaneously, the flightless bird is fashioned. It’s a magical transformation and one of many wonderful inventions in this breathless bio-drama of the brilliant musician, composer, conductor, inventor, innovator and absent-minded-professor-type Raymond Scott (an endearing Erik Lochtefeld).

Eric Wright, Tyler Bunch, Hanley Smith, Clare McNulty, Spencer Lott, and Erik Lochtefeld in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.

On second thought, calling Powerhouse a bio-drama, which for me has so many negative connotations—tedious, dull, conventional, agenda-driven, impersonal—doesn’t evoke an accurate picture of this thoroughly theatrical fantasia. We see swing dancing and jazz; are shown the Electronium, Scott’s electronic music generator; hear him describe a future in which people will be able to transmit music telepathically; we see a girl floating in outer space after a Twinkie in a theatricalization of a 1950’s TV commercial; observe a relationship crumble in a rapid series of phone calls; and watch a stroke begin with drawers opening autonomously in the victim’s cabinet and end with a cartoon character bonking the victim in the head with an oversized mallet.

Tyler Bunch, Erik Lochtefeld, and Eric Wright in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.

With minimal props, Sinking Ship Ensemble creates a rich and fascinating world. And the outstanding choreography, executed with a precision that seems effortless, gives Powerhouse, named after one of Scott’s more famous compositions, the feeling of being one fantastic organism, free-forming and lovely. While I would have preferred the drama to be just a bit crisper, this does little to detract from the pleasure of watching a remarkable production.

Hanley Smith, Eric Wright, and Clare McNulty in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.

The excellent Sinking Ship Ensemble cast includes: Jessica Frey, Hanley Smith, Tyler Bunch, Spencer Lott, Eric Wright, and Clare McNulty.

Hanley Smith, Eric Wright (obscured), Clare McNulty, Tyler Bunch and Spencer Lott in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.

photos by Justin Khalifa

Clare McNulty and Spencer Lott in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.

Hanley Smith and Erik Lochtefeld in POWERHOUSE. Photo by Justin Khalifa.Powerhouse
Sinking Ship Productions
New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher St.
Tues – Sat at 8; Sun at 3
scheduled to end on November 23, 2014
for tickets, call 888-596-1027
or visit www.Powerhouse-ThePlay.com

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