By Hannah Kenah, Jenny Larson and Diana Lynn Small
Produced by Brooklyn Yard
Off Off Broadway, Two One-Act Plays
Runs through 7.30.16
398 Marion Street, Brooklyn
by Ken Kaissar on 7.27.16
Jenny Larson and Hannah Kenah in Guest by Courtesy, part of Austin Exchange. Photo by Alison Luntz.
BOTTOM LINE: Two one-acts brought in from Austin, Texas and performed in an apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
To see theatre performed in the home of a complete stranger is a unique experience. Theatre, at its best, is personal, and what can be more personal than entering someone’s residence? A home is an exhibit of a human life; pictures on the wall display the most intimate moments with friends and loved ones, books on the shelves expose the topics that occupy the minds of the residents, and household goods shed light on mundane, domestic habits. Is it possible to enter someone’s home and not, on some level, enter their lives? I’m not sure who resides at 398 Marion Street, but I applaud their courage in allowing 15 complete strangers to enter their living room to experience art. Indeed, I recommend that you see Austin Exchange if only for this personal encounter and what it can teach about the intimate nature of the theatre.
As the title suggests, Austin Exchange is made up of two one-acts written and performed by artists based in Austin, Texas. The first, Guest by Courtesy, is a hilarious absurdist piece with a style reminiscent of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, only vulgar and sexually explicit. Written and performed by Hannah Kenah and Jenny Larson, and joined in performance by Jason Hays, the play tells the story of a turbulent tea date between two cousins, one intellectually curious but poor, the other wealthy but depraved. This zany comedy adds up to an interesting comment on the behavior that polite society expects of these women versus their true nature that is constantly repressed and denied. Kenah is a member of the Texas-based experimental company Rude Mechs. If you know their work, you’ll have a good idea of the off-the-wall kookiness you can expect here.
The second play, Diana Lynn Small's Mad & A Goat, is a cautionary morality tale about the depths to which humanity will sink in pursuit of money. The piece is essentially a solo-play performed by two women, Heather Ostberg Johnson and Paige Tautz, who represent the same narrative voice, but splinter off to create other characters when the story is in need of a two-person dialogue exchange. This piece is performed at a brisk pace and covers a lot of ground in its hour and change of performance time. If your mind may wander at moments, it culminates in a powerful message that I found myself contemplating well after I took leave of my host’s living room.
At a total running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, each play could afford a bit of editing to maximize a truly enjoyable evening. But both are visually engaging with an ambitious movement component and demand physical and emotional flexibility of their performers. That, and the unique voices of all three writers, make this a trip out to Bed-Stuy well worth it.
(Austin Exchange plays in an apartment at 398 Marion Street, Brooklyn, through July 30, 2016. The running time is two hours and fifteen minutes with an intermission. Performances are Wednesday thru Saturday at 7:30. Tickets are $18 and are available at brooklynyard.org.)
Austin Exchange is by Hannah Kenah and Jenny Larson (Guest By Courtesy) and Diana Lynn Small (Mad & A Goat). Lighting Design is by Rachel Alulis.
The cast is Hannah Kenah, Jenny Larson, and Jason Hays (Guest By Courtesy); and Heather Ostberg Johnson and Paige Tautz (Mad & A Goat).