Friday, August 2, 2013

Three, or the Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness by Timothy Braun, Breaking String Theatre at the Off Center, July 26 - August 17, 2013

Three or the Existential Sound of the Great Nothingness by Timothy Braun, Breaking String AUstin TX
ALT review

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Brother Andre’s cell ringtone is Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, and that’s everything, right up front, for Three, or, The Sound of the Great Existential Nothingness by Timothy Braun. Each and every character on stage goes down, down, down in a burning ring of fire, seemingly without redemption.

Three Sound of Great Existential Nothingness Timothy Braun Breaking String Austin TX

Breaking String Theater produces the play at the Off Center, possibly the east side’s most prestigious venue. In marketing material, the play is described as a modern reworking of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. After having seen the show, I’m glad I decided to drink the play neat. Put down your Chekhov and go to the show.

Andre and his three sisters have been settled in an unbelievably small and provincial town distinguished by its nothingness. The town is located by the characters by spinning a globe and jamming their fingers onto it at random. Nothing could say every-nowhere better than that. The siblings’ doctor father did this to his four children when the town pleaded for a general practitioner. The doctor took the job and then died, leaving the children to attain adulthood and stumble through the wreckage of their lives, featuring advanced alcoholism, profligacy and gambling addiction. The play makes no mention of their mother.

The action takes place on the 21st birthday of the youngest daughter, Irina, and although Brother Andre bribes several of the townspeople to come to the weekend-long bash, only two show up, but these two are straight out of the family’s past. They are The Captain, played by Chris Gibson, and Officer in Training, played by David Higgins. Under the solvent of alcohol, the layers of denial slowly wash away, and the characters and their histories lie exposed and raw. We all have a little somethin’ to hide; but these people have to deal with icebergs, strip mines, nuclear waste dumps, and Cambodian minefields of the inner landscape-- with fracking in progress.

Three Sound of Great Existential Nothingness Timothy Braun Breaking String Austin TX

Director Schmidt leads us deftly through the carnage with an excellent cast. Cami Alys is notable as Masha, threatening, black-garbed; a Miss Attitude who, when not running with her scissors, holsters them prominently in her boot. She also scissors pictures out of library books as her sole prerogative as the town’s English teacher. Later, Andre says she is getting worse. We believe it. Ms Alys performs with supreme physicality, matched in the cast only by the gracile Gricelda Silva as Irina.

Jeff Mills as Andre and Dawn Youngs as Olga play with greater restraint than the others, as their characters require. With Andre this is due to a profound emotional weakness that leads him to trifle with the town punch and gamble with everything from the dog to the deed to the ranch. He talks smartass, even as a frame bending narrator, but his heart is in nothing but ennui. Mills’s accomplishment in erforming with this low intensity for all but a few minutes of the play is a credit to his skills. Olga, as the oldest sister, is bound by conventionality and the imperative to do the right thing. Youngs plays her with glimpses of Olga’s bottled rage and shows her physicality in games of jump-rope late in the play. This sequence, along with the party scene, adds creative dimension and relieves the audience after an hour of sturm and drang.

Click to read more of David Glen Robinson's review at . . . .

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