Friday, July 10, 2009

Behind the Bullseye


Written and directed by Kevin Doyle. The Ontological Theater, St. Mark's Church. (CLOSED)

Should a performance-art/docu-drama/agit-prop piece make its case through ideas or images or both? Kevin Doyle's seventy-five minute multimedia assault on the Atlantic Avenue Target seems to have plenty of loud stage images and this asset makes the polemic worthwhile, even compelling, for Martin Denton at and Jason Zinoman at the Times. Alexis Soloski points out the paucity of ideas, and David Cote finds even the images trite and overwrought. Cote's negative review makes an interesting overlapping point with Zinoman's largely positive review. Cote finds the staging tedious; Zinoman finds it vivid and stylish -- but both men think the force of the imagery might actually beautify what it's supposed to critique. A-
(Dan Bacalzo) This performance art investigation of consumer culture and all that it implies, as exemplified by the collisions of classes at a Target store in Brooklyn, is sharp and incisive and brilliantly funny. The word "genius" actually danced through my mind once or twice, the object of that notion being writer/director Kevin Doyle, the guiding spirit of this remarkable work of theatre, a talented artist who seems to make more and more exciting and inspired choices with each successive play ... So, okay, Behind the Bullseye isn't exactly subtle in its exploration of classism and consumerism, but it's honest as all get-out, and many of the laughs are of recognition as this strange "chamber play"/fantasia unfolds.

The New York Times B+
(Jason Zinoman) Target has not attracted the controversy of the nearby Atlantic Yards project, which plans to add a stadium and a new skyline of towers to downtown Brooklyn. But for some locals it’s part of the out-of-scale corporate sheen that threatens the spirit of their leafy borough. Anxiety about this development is stylishly illustrated in “Behind the Bullseye,” an intimate Target polemic that looks like one of Reverend Billy’s nightmares staged by Robert Wilson on a budget ... Most audience members will find the images more potent than the ideas. Mr. Doyle, who also directed, has a résumé that includes music videos, a talent evident in his creation of mood and the grand gesture. But his sleek style may work against him: while his message is a strident critique, it is presented in stage pictures — vivid constructions with surprising splashes of color — seductive enough to make Target look rather beautiful.

Backstage B
(Mitch Montgomery) Writer-director Kevin Doyle has composed an imaginative ceremony from interviews with shoppers at the Atlantic Avenue Target store ... While the whole experience sometimes teeters dangerously close to absolute bedlam, Doyle at least knows how to drive home a point. Characters' humdrum laments are chanted ad nauseam, repeated until a word like equals finally assumes its proper significance to shoppers who are in every way unequal ... The game cast provides refreshingly intimate characterizations, considering Doyle and designer Brendan Regimbal's erratic landscape of monitors, projections, and Target paraphernalia.

Village Voice D+
(Alexis Soloski) As a parody of performance art, it succeeds admirably—but as documentary theater, not so much ... While one character orates, another looks mournfully into a video camera. Writer-director Kevin Doyle uses the same tricks in each speech—repeated phrases and staccato rhythms meant to give ordinary language the pull of incantation. Several times, characters make the gnomic declaration, "Retail is not what you think it is," yet the play doesn't support this assertion. Its less-than startling disclosures include: (1) Americans like to buy stuff; and (2) Asian sweatshops produce that stuff.

Time Out New York D-
(David Cote) If you critique a mass-marketed brand and your attack is obvious and tedious, does that effectively make you an advertisement for said product? [...] The deadpan delivery and stylized movement is cute for perhaps ten sketch-comedy minutes, but it conveys no information that would dissuade me from shopping at Target in the future ... As a director, Doyle offers predictable and inert staging concepts that should have been thrown out after the first week of rehearsal. An assistant store manager (Mike Carlsen) and his underling (Keith Jamal Downing) spend what seems like an eternity arranging red Target bags on the floor in a semicircle, then creating an inner ring of blue Gatorade bottles. Believe me, there would be more excitement watching them stock the shelves at your local Food Emporium. A- 12; New York Times B+ 11; Backstage B 10; Village Voice D+ 5; TONY D- 3; TOTAL: 41/5 = 8.2 (C+)

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