By Stephen Aubrey, Nick Benacerraf, Jess Chayes, Eric John Meyer
Directed by Jess Chayes
Produced by The Assembly
Off Off Broadway, New Play
Runs through 10.26.14
The New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street
by Alaina Feehan on 10.13.14
Edward Bauer and Jocelyn Kruistky in That Poor Dream.
BOTTOM LINE: This bold and brave piece sets the spark for an introspective revolution.
“...the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” – John Steinbeck
In The Assembly’s That Poor Dream America’s current class structure and our views of wealth and worth are examined through the rehashing of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and many other works, like Jamie Johnson’s (an heir the Johnson & Johnson fortune) documentary, The One Percent and The Rich and The Rest of Us, by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. Counting the credited sources in the program, there are 18 in all (not including the above Steinbeck quote, which is also a source of inspiration).
The play starts out in a train, with Pip (Edward Bauer) on his way to see Miss Havisham (T. Ray Campbell) in Connecticut because he has just heard about Estella’s (Jocelyn Kuritsky) engagement. Unlike other versions of Great Expectations, the Pip we’re first introduced to here has already been corrupted and spoiled by money and it takes some time to warm up to his character (but, trust me, you will). Pip is soon joined by Magwitch (Terrell Wheeler). Pip’s world is turned upside down when he learns that his benefactor has been Magwitch all along and not Miss Havisham, as he had always thought, and thus ignites a series of flashbacks in which Pip reexamines his past to find new meaning and purpose to his life.
These flashbacks are artfully presented through dream-like sequences, made possible in part by the clever use of AV devises and the talent of director Jess Chayes.
Because this piece has been quilted together by so many different minds and sources, I’m afraid it’s not as smooth and streamlined as it could be, but it is nonetheless very intelligent and thought provoking. It is filled with a lot of great ideas and beautiful dialogue. The Assembly’s mission is to “unite (their) varied interests in service of wide-reaching, unabashedly theatrical, and rigorously researched ensemble performances that address the complexities of ever-changing world...dedicated to rooting its artists, audience, and peers in a profound sense of community.”
Though I admittedly got a bit lost in the clunkiness of the storytelling, I have to say I left the theatre feeling profoundly connected to the piece and its players. This connection is partly thanks to a bit at the end of the play, in which several of the actors reveal their own personal “great expectations.” Though this part doesn't necessarily fit within the rest of the play, it was my favorite part of the piece.
Let me tell you folks: Shit. Got. Real. There have only been a handful of times when I’ve sat in an audience and felt as though I have been shaken to the core. At the end of That Poor Dream I felt as though I was witnessing a revolution and the evolution of theatre all at once. The players' ‘reveals’ were so exquisitely personal and so painfully honest, I immediately thought that I was having an intimate conversation with my new best friend. I was just as teary eyed as they were. I won’t dare tell you what they said. No, you must go and experience their monologues for yourselves. But I will say that I found Ben Beckley’s speech to be particularly well-crafted and moving.
Moti Margolin is a real stand out as Joe. He gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on stage. He is ‘good’ and ‘earnest’ and hardworking and ever the personification of what the McCain/Palin campaign hoped their Joe the Plumber poster boy could have been.
The designers -- Ray Sun Ruey-Horng (video), Ben Truppin-Brown (sound), Asa Wember (sound), Nick Benacerraf (set) and Derek Wright (lighting) -- work together to transport you to a hip and dream-like aesthetic.
Go buy a lottery ticket and keep it in your pocket as you watch this play.
(That Poor Dream plays at The New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street through October 26, 2014. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 8PM with an additional performance on 10/20 at 8pm. Tickets are $18 and are available at newohiotheatre.org.)