Lost patrol

Piper McKenzie Presents Tinklepack Patrol in The Curse of Count Morpheus

Written and directed by Jeffrey Alexander Lewonczyk
HERE and Piper McKenzie Productions
HERE Arts Center
145 6th Avenue (between Spring & Broome Sts.; 647-0202)
Non-union production (closes Oct. 26)
Review by Doug DeVita

This show, written and directed by (and also featuring) Jeffrey Alexander Lewonczyck, appeared to be a series of comic sketches that might have been interrelated in some bizarre parallel universe, but not in this one. An exchange of dialog toward the conclusion of the piece summed it all up perfectly: "What the hell was that? -- I have no idea."

Anyone who had been given access to the production's press packet had an opportunity to read a charming, witty, and thoroughly prepared document that spelled out precisely who the troupe is, the standards they hold for themselves, and what the evening was going to be about. But in its laugh-out-loud language, the press release set up expectations for a production that was clear, funny, and naively sophisticated. It wasn't.

And for those not privileged to read the behind-the-scenes setup, the production must have been an even more frustrating experience, as its dreamlike Absurdist premise is totally at odds with its title, its opening lines, and even with who plays whom as listed in the program. A space-age comic-strip spoof was expected: what was delivered was a bad imitation of Beckett. In addition, in an overheated basement theatre, it ran 95 minutes -- most productions of this kind reduce the risk of wearing out their welcome by staying within a 45-60-minute time frame.

The youthfully energetic cast (Joe "Tackelberry" Beaudin, The Lovely Hope Cartelli, Dame Kate Sandberg, Ms. Nina Wallischka -- that's how they listed themselves) cavorted with the glee usually associated with unrestrained children, and seemed blissfully unaware of anything other than their own importance. But as the evening progressed, a desperate air overtook their clowning, as if they were longing for an adult to enter the room and put a stop to their shenanigans. Joke after joke fell flat from the lack of response from the tiny audience, and under the bright white glare of Ilene Weintraub's mostly un-gelled lighting, what may have been a hoot in a living-room rehearsal space was exposed as little more than bright ideas left hanging by the lack of good theatrical judgment. There was no set at all, just a bare stage, a few white wooden picture-frame props that were supposed to represent comic-strip frames but didn't, and pale-yellow-and-white costumes by Iracel Rivero that were unquestionably the most successful aspect of an evening of otherwise self-congratulatory excess.

At one point, the on-stage antics called to mind the clown troupe The Six Characters, a troupe of sublime comedians of roughly the same age as the Tinklepack Patrol. Producer McKenzie should treat his performers to one of The Six Characters' performances -- a lot could be gleaned from their superior, hilariously funny, and sharp-edged comedy. Maybe then, perhaps, the performances could equal the intellectual pretensions of their press packets.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 0
Sets: N/A
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 0

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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita