Monday, January 26, 2009

Ten Blocks on the Camino Real


By Tennessee Williams. Directed by David Herskovitz. Target Margin at the Ohio Theatre. CLOSED.

Target Margin's revival of the one-act warmup for Williams' much-unloved 1953 phantasmagoria Camino Real is embraced by some critics as an interesting experimental effort, artfully staged, although a louder chorus of detractors range from politely puzzled to downright dimissive. Among the latter is Variety's Marilyn Stasio, whose assertion that Camino Real represents Williams' "single bold attempt to expand his style and vision" seems pretty cruelly dismissive of the writer's post-1963 output.

Village Voice A-
(Alexis Soloski) This series of 10 surrealistic scenes originally received a workshop from Elia Kazan in 1948 and informed Williams's 1953 Broadway flop, Camino Real (also directed by Kazan)...In some dastardly tropical clime, an American boxer named Kilroy (Satya Bhabha)...flaunts bravado, a pair of golden gloves, and a terminal cardiac condition. "I got a heart in my chest as big as the head of a baby," he announces to all...Target Margin has a big heart as well, approaching the middling dialogue with its usual mix of smarts, brio, and very silly sound cues. Director Herskovits doesn't trouble to make sense of the script, taking a cheerful attitude toward its poetic excesses. That's likely for the best.

New York Times B+
(Wilborn Hampton) “Ten Blocks on the Camino Real” is more a collection of notes for a play than a play itself, a pastiche of scenes (what Williams called blocks) that the playwright expanded and increased to 16 for the final version. The director David Herskovits has mounted a lively and energetic staging at the Ohio Theater in SoHo, but most of the brief vignettes are so slight it is difficult to find a coherent thread tying them together. While enigmatic, the full-length play contains some of Williams’s most poetic imagery, and a sampling of it can be found in “Ten Blocks"...Satya Bhabha gives a fine performance as Kilroy, by turns angry and frightened.

CurtainUp B+
(Les Gutman) While the play's surrealism might have been off-putting to Broadway audiences, there's a sensibility here that's very familiar to those who know and appreciate what Target Margin does...David Herskovits has assembled an able group, headed by the engaging Satya Bhabha...What's even more interesting is that, even at its roughest, the lyricism and symbolism with which Williams saturates all of his plays are very much in evidence, even though without much connective tissue in the form of plot or character development. Is this, as Kazan suggested, one of Williams's best? Probably not. Yet I was pleased to see this spirited production in this compressed form.

Backstage B+
(David Sheward) David Herskovits, the company's artistic director, accentuates the bizarre aspects of the script by using exaggerated sounds and employing a cast of six to play all the roles, sometimes even sharing them — the gypsy is played by a male and a female actor. The gimmicks, unfortunately, sometimes overshadow Williams' lyrical poetry...On the plus side, Herskovits has for the most part directed his actors to play their roles without heightening the symbolism...Satya Bhabha endows Kilroy with a boyish charm as he fights against the forces of darkness and greed.

Theatermania B
(Andy Propst) An existential fantasia that reads and plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone written by Salvador Dali. But while artistic director David Herskovits has given the long-neglected work a respectable staging, he hasn't come up with a fully satisfying one...Surprisingly some of Herskovits' adventurousness seems to have been diluted here. Indeed, as the play unfolds, Herskovits and company serve up Williams' fantastical tale in an almost surprisingly straightforward manner...Not surprisingly, Williams' work pulsates with lyricism, and there are times when the poetry is delivered with haunting crispness. C+
(Kelly Aliano) The play operates as a surrealistic dream—or nightmare—seemingly manifested by (or for) Kilroy, an American former prizefighter, forced to quit boxing because of heart trouble. His heart, he claims, "is as big as the head of a baby" and cannot withstand any stress of any kind...The entirety of the space is used in clever and unique ways. Williams's writing is beautiful but there does not seem to be any overarching throughline to tie the poetic riffs together tightly enough to constitute a dramatic plot.

Variety C
(Marilyn Stasio) While Target Margin does an amusing job of visualizing "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"...the company doesn't show much interest in--or aptitude for--exploring what lies beneath its surreal exterior. And let's not even talk about the lack of acting chops...The cellar of the Ohio Theater in Soho is a great place to put on Williams' early attempt to write an experimental play. Under the guiding hand of helmer (and company a.d.) David Herskovits, Target Margin's design staff has transformed the space into a festive setting for a Mexican-flavored nightmare.

AM New York C
(Matt Windman) David Herskovits’ low-budget staging, which tries to instill a carnival atmosphere into the cavernous SoHo Theater, is lively and well meant but not very satisfying. His six-person cast is forced to play multiple roles, move slowly and indulge in big and broad gesturing, making a difficult play even more confusing. Only Satya Bhabha, who plays the young American boxer Kilroy, gains the audience’s interest. What’s most unclear of all is why Target Margin bothered to use this early draft of the play instead of the more fully realized and finished “Camino Real.” Was it totally for the sake of novelty? In any case, this production fails to make a compelling case for bringing it back from the dead.

Time Out NY D+
(Pamela Newton) More disjointed than the final version, this short play lacks the dramatic tension and rich characters that usually make Williams’s work so absorbing. Its shortcomings are only emphasized by David Herskovits’s direction, which moves at a lagging pace and exaggerates the weirdness of the piece...One genuine delight is Jim Breitmeier’s perky sound design, its cinematic effects injecting much-needed shots of energy. But even if the rest of the production were as lively, Ten Blocks would still serve as a warning: Discarded works of great masters are sometimes best left on the cutting-room floor.

Theatre News Online D+
(Sandy MacDonald) Some prototypes are best left to the archives. Judging from Target Margin Theater's amateurish, over-literal mounting, Ten Blocks on the Camino Real--the 1946 precursor of 1953's grandly surrealist Camino Real--is one such work. The company, directed by David Herskovitz, pounces on the meager portentous script like dogs on a bone--or, to use a more Williamsian simile, scavengers on a dung heap...As the temptress Esmeralda, Purva Bedi contributes a lithe body and refreshing directness--she alone among the cast doesn't seem intent on packing Cosmic Import into her lines...Otherwise, between the actors' posing and beseeching, and a sadistically amped sound track, it's not an enjoyable or especially enlightening experience.

Village Voice A- 12; New York Times B+ 11; CurtainUp B+ 11; Backstage B+ 11; Theatermania B 10; C+ 8; Variety C 7; AM New York C 7; TONY D+ 5; Theatre News Online D+ 5; TOTAL: 87/10=8.7 (B-)

No comments: