PEYOTE BUSINESS LUNCH from Artemis Exchange as part of the 2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival. You can read the show description here.
Before I get into my review for the show I have to talk about the elephant in the room or, in this case, the elephant that IS in the room. The ArtWorks venue was problematic for WHITE GIRL, it works better for both HEADSCARF AND THE ANGRY BITCH and I LOVE YOU (WE’RE FUCKED) because the performers are standing for most of their one-person shows. However, the venue buries PEYOTE BUSINESS LUNCH.
The majority of the show is three men seated around a card table. For me, the entire performance was a frustrating and futile attempt to try to see who was talking through an ever-shifting sea of heads. Literally at no point during the performance could I see all three actors unimpeded. Add to this, the echoes caused by the bare, flat walls around the actors, the depth of the room, the air conditioning equipment running to my right, and the lack of diction and projection by some of the performers; in tandem these issues caused me to miss large chunks of what is essential a talky show. Hanging area mikes over the actors could correct this later complaint.
So here begins the rant. The audience is complaining, other reviewers are complaining, the Fringe staff is aware of the issue and yet NOTHING has been done to address the sight line problem at ArtWorks. As I see it there are several options:
- Beg, borrow or steal a high top table and chairs from an Applebee’s to get the actors above the heads of the audience.
- Stack flats or risers on the existing play area to add more height.
- Put the audience on risers so they can see over each other.
- Move the remaining performances to another venue. Yes, I understand this is a logistical nightmare but something needs to be done. At least at Hanke 1 the sight lines would be better.
End rant. Here are my impressions of the show from what I could see and hear. I enjoyed George Alexander as Chief Leon Proudfeather who offered an interesting performance both vocally and visually. Randy Lee Bailey as job applicant Jon Frankie, doesn’t offer much variation in his performance when he is under the influence of peyote. A more physical/comic approach to the character would have made Jon a better foil for Leon. Christopher Dooley as Marvin Jones spends most of the show seated between the other two men in an peyote-induced stupor. This puts him in the un-admirable position of trying to balance an interesting performance without upstaging those around him. Christopher also has the deepest voice on stage which tends to echo off the walls so more attention to voice projection and annunciation would help. Those notes can be given to Kate Kershaw as well, who’s delivery as the apathetic waitress is spot on, but hard to hear.
Kate also plays other characters/spirit guides that appear during the peyote-influenced lunch. Her waitress apron is used as a prop for several of these transformations, but unfortunately a white apron on a white shirt in front of white walls tends to wash out. This would have been a great opportunity to add masks or props with some color and Native American influences into the story to better define that these characters were part of the “trip.”
A strange bit in the script occurs when the waitress goes off on a “I don’t want to be a waitress, I’m a actor” tirade because the peyote-influenced lunch patrons fail to respond to her questions. Which would be fine if she wasn’t the person who was told by the Chief to bring in the laced tea. I also would have expected the Chief’s role to be more of vision guide than equal participant.
The script has potential, but I think it needs some tweaking and streamlining.
Three performances remain of PEYOTE BUSINESS LUNCH at ArtWorks:
- Mon, June 6 at 8:30pm
- Wed, June 8 at 8:15pm
- Fri, June 10 at 7pm
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