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And yet . . . maybe the above is unfair. After all, with the distinguished director Marion McClinton at the helm and a cast that includes Maria Tucci and Mabou Mines' Karen Kandel all the elements of a play are in place. There's also James Noone's set, its floors covered with phrases that spill into the aisles, to contribute to the current crop of spectacular looking production currently at the Public Theater (see, 36 Views and Helen ). Considering that Rux's reputation as "a young artist to watch" is predicated on his endeavors as a multi-disciplinary artist, maybe the eye-filling stagecraft and the often witty dialogue should be sufficient to overlook the uncontrolled sprawl of ideas that sent at least ten percent of the audience heading for the exit at the midpoint intermission.
The symposium that serves as Rux's dramatic setup is located at The Museum of Antiquities with the characteristics of and objects from a long ago world. This establishes a connection between Plato and the artists invited to discuss the life (including his death in a Southern prison) and work of an African American artist alliteratively named Archer Aymes.
Aymes was one of those instant celebrities who burst into the limelight after publishing a short novel while still a student at Columbia University. He made a very different kind of news when at age forty he was arrested as part of a Civil Rights march and found dead in a jail cell, an apparent suicide.
The Greek connection is self-consciously reinforced by giving all the panelists names from classical literature. All have a direct connection to Aymes, except the moderator (Anthony Mackie), who is a would-be follower in his footsteps:
The dramaturgical shortcomings and Mr. McClinton's failure to reign in some of the excesses notwithstanding, the talk in Talk brims with some sharp and purposefully pompous exchanges. Each actor gets and makes the most of some outstanding moments. Jon's turn at the podium at the side of the main playing area includes a laugh-aloud link between Aymes' work and hip-hop, illustrated with the Rapper Jay-Z's "sampled" and "recontextualized" version of "Hard Knocks in Life" from Annie.
The ongoing hostility between Phaedo and Ion also makes for some amusing exchanges; for example, when Phaedo accuses Ion of not having any "real language for criticism" he snaps back "What I have is two PHDs, thirty years of experience, common sense and my sanity! How about you lady?" -- to which the lady calmly declares "I have tenure!!!"
What all the panelists have plenty of is the ability to promote their own interests at the slightest opportunity. John Seitz's Meno, who represents the American success ethos, gets to drop the most celebrity names into his ever present personal asides. When at one point he impatiently declares: "yak, yak, yak yak" he also sums up much about the play he's in.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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