Off-Broadway at The Kirk on Theatre Row
Now playing thru 27 January, 2007
In certain parts of New York City, the 2003 blackout lasted more than 24 hours. The new play, “Blackout” by Michael I. Walker feels a lot longer than that. In an effort to channel the likes of William Inge and John Hughes, Walker has penned a story where six strangers (most representing the token fill-in-the-blank) meet on a stoop in Hell’s Kitchen. Among them is Maggie, the fresh-off-the-boat Wal-Mart clerk from North Carolina who is the chattiest character I have ever seen onstage. Her performance is less the wide-eyed wonder of Millie and more the neurotic Bible-thumper who looks out at the audience more than at her fellow actors onstage. Add to her, a lonely gay writer, an ex-pat with a raging libido, a song played by a solo saxophone (and a bar-owner), a fierce and feisty career woman (without the sneakers in her Prada tote), and a ranting homeless traffic director/prophet. There are noteworthy performances here, especially from Ryan Patrick Bachand, Almeria Campbell and Kevin Mambo. The intersection of their worlds is, indeed, interesting, largely due to the wonderful cast that sell it so well. Where “Blackout” really falls down is in its apparent lack of development. The script is in dire need of a nip/tuck. The homeless guy’s interstitial moments are the longest ones in the play and above adequate at making the loftier themes known to the audience. And for a play about the blackout, there’s quite the wonky lighting design; lots of light during the blackout scenes – not so much when the electricity is up and running. This is a great concept and has some poignant dialogue about the state of the world we live in. It’s just not quite ready to be seen.