Monday, December 16, 2013
We Were Nothing by Will Arbery, Poison Apple Initiative, December 11 - 21, 2013
by Michael Meigs
You may want to budget some extra time for locating the venue if you don't already know Monstrosity Studio or have an informative friend involved in the Poison Apple Initiative production of We Were Nothing by Will Arbery.
I wound up driving through a series of parking lots surrounding rental barracks south of Oltorf, then got warmer when I crossed west across South First. It's been dark for quite a while by 7 p.m. and other than the street signs at intersections, you're not going to find many helpful postings of house numbers. I got lucky. Artistic Director Bastion Carboni was standing out on the sidewalk talking on the phone.
Turns out that the studio is in a two-story structure behind the modest bungalow at 2514 Wilson Street. Once upstairs, I slipped into a spot on the stretch of floor in front of the assortment of chairs clumped on one side of the bare studio with the high ceilings. A wall of brown wrapping paper had been improvised across one corner of the room, table lamps were set directly on the floor to our left and right, and high overhead some floodlights hung from rails duct-taped to the ceiling.
The apparent anonymity of the venue contrasted with the evident ease of the crowd of friends sipping St. Arnold's beer. Carboni has an extensive circle of acquaintances in Austin's respectable underworld of creatives, engaged over the past three years as he and others of the Initiative have presented challenges ranging from Sartre to Büchner's Woyzek to Neil LaBute to Carboni (several times). For a couple of years his acerbic theatre reviews livened up the Austin Chronicle, but he gave that up to spend more time on his own writing.
Arbery's piece for two young women is, in fact, about anonymity and friendship -- or to be more precise, anomie in friendship. Kelly and Shelly don't resemble one another physically, but they're as millenially alike as two peas in a pod. The actresses Kayla Newman and Tarah Zolman -- ironically, even their real names resemble one another -- appear on either side of that bare space when the lights come up. Their speech is off-handed, incomplete, distracted, a shorthand of social communication that inquires, reassures, offers random observations -- but doesn't really go anywhere. We realize quickly that in the story they're not sharing the physical space at all: they've been besties since high school but they've drifted farther and farther apart.
Click to read more at Central Texas Live Theatre. . . .