Review: ‘Andromeda Shack’

Woolly Mammoth Theater Co.'s intrepid pursuit of the fringes in theater has turned up "Andromeda Shack," a wacky comedy by David Bucci that is entertainingly cranked to the fullest in this hyper-kinetic and techno-filled production.

Woolly Mammoth Theater Co.’s intrepid pursuit of the fringes in theater has turned up “Andromeda Shack,” a wacky comedy by David Bucci that is entertainingly cranked to the fullest in this hyper-kinetic and techno-filled production.

The play was requested by Woolly artistic director Howard Shalwitz, who asked Bucci (“Lynwood Pharmacy”) to write an existential, over-the-top comedy that would capture the cultural moment, something on the order of Don DeLillo’s “The Day Room.” Bucci has obliged on all counts, assisted by artistic support from Woolly and Shalwitz’s early assurance of a full production.

The plot is sheer lunacy: A string of Radio Shack-like electronics stores have become the target of a mysterious bomber. At one location, a sinister looking device turns up front and center, blinking away. But the store’s lone teenage clerk is far too obsessed with her budding career as an anti-establishment “artistic performer,” while the store’s manager is consumed with a job promotion that might come any second over the fax machine.

Into this dysfunctional business troops a small platoon of lunatics, each zanier than the next. A plot, of sorts, develops around the menacing machine and one particular customer, an “unkempt anti-capitalist anarchist” intent on buying gadgets and enlisting the clerk to his cause.

Woolly regulars Rhea Seehorn and Holly Twyford are delightfully unrestrained as the teenager and neurotic manager, respectively. Seehorn is every inch the self-obsessed bimbo, and Twyford is hysterical as she oversees the escalating mayhem while bemoaning her predicament with such plaintive cries as, “These stupid gadgets are laughing at me!” Mark Shanahan and Christopher Marlowe Roche play two roles apiece, also to the max.

Adolescent? You bet. But a lot of fun, too, under Lou Jacob’s fast-paced direction. David P. Gordon’s lively set resembles the inside of any Radio Shack, with some quirky deviations. The automatic front door has a mind of its own and becomes a delightful running gag, while the familiar Radio Shack wall treatments burst to life as a space-age tapestry of neon and strobe lights under designer Lisa L. Ogonowski’s imaginative oversight.

The production is the second to be produced by Woolly at the Kennedy Center’s American Film Institute Theater, its temporary home until a new downtown facility is built.

Andromeda Shack

AFI Theater, Washington; 196 Seats; $29 Top

Production

A Woolly Mammoth Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts by David Bucci. Directed by Lou Jacob.

Creative

Set, David P. Gordon; costumes, Brenda K. Plakans; lighting, Lisa L. Ogonowski; sound, Mark Anduss. Opened March 24, 2001. Reviewed March 29. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Cast

Patsy Jones - Rhea Seehorn HiTechRiot001/Xavier Valentine - Mark Shanahan Elinor Mann - Holly Twyford Lee Osowski/Johnny Pigone - Christopher Marlowe Roche

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