April 22, 2005
Farce takes off from 9/11
If comedy is tragedy plus time, might we not be ready now for a withering social satire of New Yorkers reeling from 9/11? Alas, playwright Gregory Phillips' overstuffed "Dust," now at Silver Lake's Company of Angels, is not a reliable test case.
There are glimmers of wit and surprise, as well as awkward missteps galore, in this wannabe absurdist farce about a socialite Upper East Side family regrouping and rallying after their powerful patriarch goes down with the World Trade Center towers.
His ditzy widow (Susan Berger) is prone to reveries dressed in gas mask and superannuated couture, while a pair of contrasting daughters, cynical jet-setter Meredith (Caerthan Banks) and high-strung hostess Gertrude (Perry Smith), try to guess what Daddy's wishes might have been, particularly concerning his mysterious, omnipotent business affairs.
If these three are brittle caricatures, they've got nothing on the motley menagerie Phillips crams into their kitschy sitting room ("set concept" by Christopher Nelson): an upscale art dealer (David Lipson) who thinks he's a bloodhound after helping a Midwestern firefighter (Julia Flint) dig through wreckage; a pair of Third World mercenaries (Marcella Pabros-Clark, Carlos DeAlba) intent on some kind of nefarious deal; a tuxedoed Chinese delivery man (Blake Kushi), and Gertrude's perky gay son (Artie O'Daly).
Amid all the contrived festivities, Phillips gives each character a soul-searching or expository monologue and aims some glancing blows at American militarism and complacency.
Director Tony Gatto and his cast seem to be having fun. But this would-be romp through the ashes of tragedy is too club-footed to dance.
"Dust," Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends May 14. $18. (323) 883-1717. Running time: 2 hours.