Laughing lightly at ourselves

On the Clock

By Paul Buzinski
Directed by Merry Beamer
Beautiful Evening Productions and Love Creek Productions
Creative Place Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Adam Cooper

On the Clock is a play for all the struggling thirtysomething NYC artists who want to joke gently about the lack of linearity in their lives. Set in the familiar scene of a glorified closet masquerading as a two-bedroom apartment, aging ne'er-do-wells Lorraine (Lori Jean Hart), fresh from a failed marriage, and Tina (Cheri Keyes DiCerbo) move in together and try to serve as each other's motivator and guardian angel. Lorraine tries to find meaning though the arts, first as a poet, then a painter, and finally as a flautist. Tina turns to men for sustenance, calling up Jack (Mark A. Kinch), a hippie acquaintance from a decade ago, only to discover upon his arrival that she does not want him. Instead, she becomes an entrepreneur, hawking gimmicky "blow-horns" on the street and over the Internet.

The primary agenda of the production was to generate laughter at all that is ludicrous: the microscopic apartment that is barely affordable, the crazy behavior of directionless people, the search for meaning in a befuddling world. But just because life may be ridiculous does not mean that a play exploring that theme should be. On certain basic levels the production succeeded in its central comic endeavor. However, with a ramshackle plot, cartoon characters, and weakly explored themes, the production became a part of that befuddlement rather than a clear-eyed artistic exposure of it.

The plot, a loose collection of rootless scenarios, suffers from a lack of rigor, poor structure, and little dramatic action. The script is overwritten and underdeveloped. Weighed down by repetitious and purposeless dialog, most of the text could have been cut and the rest expanded and cultivated.

Overall, the dramatis personae were a collection of high-strung devicey characters who engendered neither curiosity nor caring. Despite the familiarity of the scenario, the characters were not grounded in the emotional realities of not-so-young adults still struggling for identity. The acting was presentational and played too much for laughs at the play's high jinks. Hart's high-spirited eagerness and DiCerbo's judgmental forced faces and gestures quickly got stale. Their portrayals were of characters who behaved like teenagers, who were not shaped by their pasts, and who lacked any real commitment to the present. The strongest performance came from Kinch, who succeeded in creating many genuine emotional moments despite the confines of his character.

Also noteworthy was an array of eclectic props that added to the theme of meaninglessness in that they served no integrated function in the plot. There was the aforementioned blow-horns (caps with antler-like party blowers), an old-fashioned domed clock out of place in an NYC studio apartment, a toy dog that barked and did flips, and an assortment of innovative cleaning products with names like "Egg-Off Steel" and "Grime Reaper."

The set design (Philip Walker) succeeded reasonably well in portraying the makeshift nature of most tiny NYC apartments, including suggestions of tiny bedrooms in the tiny black-box playing space. Lighting and sound design (Sally McGuire) were effective in communicating the claustrophobic nature of the apartment and the volatile energy of its occupants. Costume design (uncredited) was satisfactory but did not play any crucial role in the production.

(Also starring Chuck Simone and Jeremy Schachter.)

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Adam Cooper