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|A CurtainUp Review
Armchair America: The Recline of Western Civilization
Tom Bondi and Mark Holt are the creators and performers. They are good actors and they've latched on to a concept that could lead to all sorts of sequels about similarly evocative subjects as doors and beds. The trouble is that the chair documentary angle comes off as too much of a gimmick with a bunch of chairs occasionally projected onto a screen and Lora Chio periodically popping up, mike in hand, to give us scraps of information and statistics.
Except for those occasional screen images there are just two plain, straight-backed chairs on stage. (the picture above, is from a postcard, but never materializes on stage). Despite the fact that we have three actors, Armchair America: The Recline of Western Civilization is a variation of the one person show -- the kind that allows a performer to play a variety of roles in a series of related vignettes. In this case we have two writer-actors sharing eleven characters, half of them female. The chair history is the glue used to hold it together.
The two impresarios work without costumes or makeup which accounts for the absence of costume credits (ditto for design credits). They have structured their material so that the playlet neatly winds up where it began, with Bondi and Holt each facing a chair. But while they segue skillfully between the personalities they have invented, the connection to the chair history is not very smoothly integrated.
The piece promises to answer the question: What evil lies in wait, coiled and ready to strike, within the springs of your favorite chair? as it explores the social significance of the armchair. It's a big promise that goes largely unfulfilled. Everything still feels like and undoubtedly still is very much a work in progress, with the vignettes coming off like club routines that the performers have tried to integrate with the documentary concept.
At this point the vignettes seem to hinder more than they enhance the promised history and the history does little to give the vignettes any particular distinction. Consequently, those site-specific semi-reclining couches are more likely to send the snooze meter than the laugh meter soaring.