In WC, Alex Dawson has created two characters one could easily imagine in a Whit Stillman movie. The conversation they carry on from their adjoining bathroom stalls is simultaneously cerebral yet profane, ironic yet somehow ingenuously earnest. It is this contrast between the scatological setting and action and the intellectual (or at least pseudo-intellectual) dialogue that creates the central tension and most original feature of this play.
The characters of Park (Michael Nathanson) and Kev (Marcello Cabezas), the aforementioned toilet-dwellers, are apparently on a post-college trip to Europe together before both begin graduate school in English Literature. The evening finds them inexplicably well-settled (with drinks and reading material on hand) in the bathroom of a dive bar in Paris. Kev is the slow-witted foil to pretentious know-it-all Park, who does most of the talking. The pattern for their conversation goes as follows: Park makes a literary-allusion-filled pronouncement on a random topic; Kev responds with silence that implies he doesn't get it; Park does a slow burn and then explains as one would to a child; Kev, impervious to insult, ponders and then comes out with a bone-headed non-sequitur. There is basically no plot other than this conversation, which is occasionally interrupted by a succession of non-speaking characters stumbling in to comb through the garbage, freshen up between tricks, or otherwise illustrate the utter seediness of the joint in which our young all-American heroes find themselves.
The humor-at-the-expense-of-the-dumb-guy unfortunately wore a bit thin as the evening went on; the absence of action or variation detracts from the play's overall entertainment value. Although Kev, the protegee/punching bag character, is more sympathetic than arrogant Park, neither of them inspires enough admiration or interest to sustain a full evening of hearing them talk and do little else. However, lead actors Nathanson and Cabezas did much with the material they were given, delivering the frequently funny dialogue with good timing and naturalism. Nathanson fully inhabited his role of self-important know-it-all with self-assurance and charisma. Cabezas had less to do, but was quite watchable and convincing. Also appearing, in non-speaking but effective portrayals: Joe Azzarello, director Jane Hardy, Jake Jordan, and Joe Taverney.
Hardy's direction was also effective, setting as brisk a pace as possible for material that is, to a certain extent, unavoidably stagnant. The music (by sound designer Flynn Hundhausen) was well-chosen and went far toward conveying the ambience of the setting. The set itself (by writer Alex Dawson) was quite authentic-looking and well-designed; the sense of Eurosleaze was almost palpable. Costumes and lighting were likewise effective.
A line in the play, to the effect that writing should not be instantly accessible because it's no fun to seduce a whore, is presumably meant to signal the audience that what seems like lack of entertainment value is really James Joyce-esque complexity, unable to be appreciated by those without highly developed mental capacities. There may be truth to the assertion in the abstract, but whether it applies to WC - a play that is interesting and original, but certainly less-than-Joycean in intellectual or emotional resonance - is questionable.
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Copyright 2000 Jillian Perlberger