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A CurtainUp Review
The Name of This Play is Talking Heads
By Amanda Cooper

No, it's not about the band the Talking Heads, or their similarly named album --or David Byrne for that matter. But this play (much like Byrne et. al deciding to entitle their album The Name of this Band is Talking Heads) is an attempt at a commentary on our pop-obsessed culture. Unfortunately, the production does not bring much enlightenment to this topic, except for providing a theory on how the hordes of music countdown shows are synthesized.

Pete is an uptight, intellectually-edged music journalist. As the show opens, he is being primped for his rookie appearance on a music countdown show, "Top 100 Most Rockatrocious Moments in Rock History." He is nervous, excited, and then quickly disgusted by how the producers simply feed the commentators their lines. When he decides to speak his own mind and stand his ground, he quickly discovers that this is easier thought than done, as the producer is willing to go surprisingly far in order to preserve his corrupt system.

Playwright Marc Spitz has written surprisingly one-dimensional characters who are also not entertaining exaggerations. His writing does show skill – he has captured speech patterns that are potentially funny and even accurate, but these naturalistic lines are performed too purposefully and without a flavor for our static, and even repetitive nature of speaking. Director Andy Goldberg has not come to the rescue. The forced nature present in voice carries through to the movements and interactions onstage. This may be why the funniest, most successful performance of the night comes from Brian Normant, who as Stiv, the video technician, spoke little and stirred even less.

Brian Reilly as our hero Pete rates an "A" for effort, but rooting for him is hard, as his lame (though amusingly awkward) attempt at bagging vapid makeup gal Dolly shows his own hugely superficial side. Valerie Clift as Dolly has mastered the art of having breasts pushed up to her eyeballs while still maintaining an expression of (doubtful) innocence, but her comic timing is lacking. Matt Higgins as the obnoxious comedian Frankie is justly loud and inappropriate, but is a grating presence nonetheless. Tom, played by James Eason is the Rockatrocious producer who not-so-easily embodies the asshole producer he portrays.

Though the play ends on a sardonic note, it goes a step too far, with the last beat pushing the play too suddenly into the ridiculous and leaving little open-ended. Unfortunately, for a production that is supposedly a commentary, making the story-line in a naturalistic show a closed case leaves little to be pondered, and not much that sticks in the mind.

The Name of This Play is Talking Heads
Written by Marc Spitz
Directed by Andy Goldberg
Performed by: Valerie Clift, Brian Reilly, Matt Higgins, James Eason, Brian Normant
Set Design by Shoko Kambara
Lighting Design by Rie Ono
Costumes by David Tabbert
Casting by Jodi Collins, CSA
Running time 60 minutes, no intermission
Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place (between 1s and Avenue A) 212.868.4444

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm, and Saturdays at 10pm. March 3 – March 26.
Tickets are $15
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on a March 10th, 2005 performance.
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