Review: ‘City’

Scott Organ has created a speechless, enigmatic character, the Guy (Bob Clendenin), not unlike Chance from "Being There," whose total lack of personal initiative causes all about him to impose his or her own reality onto the silent figure's dormant facade. Actually, the Guy could have been driven to his catatonic state by the constant self-conscious, pseudo-philosophical babble spewing from the mouths of the five "friends" who take him in. Director Martha McFarland keeps the action flowing in this tale of self-serving life in the big city; but neither she nor a hard-working cast can overcome Organ's stilted, sophomoric dialogue. Set in a spacious loft apartment, would-be art photographer Joey (Matthew Allen Bretz) is in the midst of a nude photo session with girlfriend Jackie (Gwyn Fawcett) when the Guy suddenly appears in front of Joey's lens. It seems their roommate, simple-minded but good-hearted delivery driver Davy (Richard Augustine), hit the Guy with his truck and has brought him home. Since he has no identification and no way of communicating but to stare straight ahead, the Guy is simply adopted into this household that includes manipulative actress-model wannabe Clair (Melanie van Betten) and constant visits from vulgar, fast-talking ad exec pal Bruce (Jim Anzide).

This passive specter immediately brings meaning into everyone’s existence. Davy now has someone on whom to impose his good-heartedness. Joey’s accidental photos of the Guy get him a gallery exhibit. Bruce sees the Guy as a perfect model for jeans ads. Clair insinuates herself into both Joey’s and Bruce’s plans. And Jackie, hurt because Joey’s new-found artistic fervor has caused him to be less sexually attentive, utilizes the Guy’s docile but firm presence to satisfy a basic need of her own. All this swirling motivation would be entertaining if not accompanied by the self-conscious verbal interplay of the characters.

Suffering most from the playwright’s dialogue indulgences are Bretz’s Joey and Fawcett’s Jackie, who rarely achieve any level of comfort with the words they are speaking. Augustine adopts the proper blue-collar persona as Dave but is always a beat out of sync with the rest of the cast. Van Betten exudes the proper sensuality as the mischievous Clair but is saddled with a couple of the playwright’s more embarrassing speeches.

Jim Anzide’s Bruce, however, manages to transcend the script. His hyper, on-the-edge Bruce actually makes Organ’s rapid-fire ad-speak palatable and believable. And then there is Clendenin, whose constant, mildly confused-looking stare is the most appealing dialogue on stage.

The low-budget set design of Ryan Cassidy and Joanne Baker serves the action quite well, as do the lighting of Rob Shirreffs and the sound design of David Hakim. Special mention must go to the very attractive and correct costuming of David King and Julie Carnahan.


Hollywood Court Theatre: 99 seats; $15 top


Circle X Theatre Co. presents a play in two acts by Scott Organ, directed by Martha McFarland.


Scenic design, Ryan Cassidy, Joanne Baker; lighting design, Rob Shirreffs; costume design, Julie Carnahan, David King; sound design, David Hakim. Opened June 20, reviewed June 22; runs until July 20. Running time: 2 hours.


Cast: Gwyn Fawcett (Jackie), Matthew Allen Bretz (Joey), Bob Clendenin (the Guy), Richard Augustine (Davy), Jim Anzide (Bruce), Melanie van Betten (Clair).
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