Written and Performed by Claire Christine Sargenti; Music by Darrell Smith
Part of the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 8.26.16
VENUE #5: drom, 85 Avenue A
by Rachel Abrams on 8.20.16
Claire Christine Sargenti in Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play. Photo by Arthur Fischer.
BOTTOM LINE: Interludes intrigues with haunting stories of New Orleans weaved into a vibrant jazz set.
At first glance, you might question if you’ve walked into the wrong venue when you come to drom for Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play: the jazz band is swinging, the lights are low, and the table seating is open for full-bar service. But rest assured, this fully functioning music club and bar will shortly become the playing space for Claire Christine Sargenti’s one-woman theater piece. drom proves to be the perfect venue to immerse audiences in the New Orleans jazz scene, where drums beat the pulse of the city.
The plot of Interludes ebbs and flows, with multiple linear narratives that overlap and intersect, as Sargenti presents a series of monologues from about eight different characters. They are all connected, first by their New Orleans ties, and second by a series of surprises we discover towards the end of the play. As Interludes glides from winter to Mardi Gras to Lent to Easter Sunday, we meet musicians and preachers, students and strippers, tourists and tap dancers, who each offer a unique perspective on the historic city. In their individual ways, each character explores what it means to live and die in a city haunted by tragedy like a lingering blues melody.
Sargenti crafts a colorful cast of personalities, shifting between ages, genders, and classes in each new monologue. Her words are poetic and clever, and for the most part she is a decent performer to watch. (Her “mad scene” late in the play is particularly powerful.) I admit I was disappointed, however, that her performance does not take full advantage of the intimate, interactive performance space, particularly when her direct-address monologues call for responses from her imagined audiences, and her costume changes are in full view of the crowd.
The other star of the evening is drummer Darrell Smith, who, with the Interludes Jazz Orchestra, composed the original New Orleans-inspired music featured throughout the evening. The soundscape oscillates between sultry, quirky, mournful, celebratory, and smooth, depending on which character is about to speak. With very simple choices made regarding lighting, props, and costumes, and no set to speak of beyond what’s already built into the venue, the production relies on its band as the soul of New Orleans; the music simultaneously paints the city and supports each characters’ life experiences through good times and bad.
While alluding to violence and tragedy throughout the city’s history, Interludes maintains a playful atmosphere and continually surprises as each character’s fortune unfolds. I’d recommend the play, especially to audiences who like a good jazz band, as a fun, short performance with intriguing storytelling in an engaging atmosphere.
(Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play plays at VENUE #5: drom, 85 Avenue A, through August 26, 2016. The running time is 1 hour 10 minutes. Performances are Sat 8/13 at 3:15; Mon 8/15 at 7; Sat 8/20 at 1; Wed 8/24 at 9:45; and Fri 8/26 at 4:45. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more information visit nolainterludes.com.)
Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play is written and performed by Claire Christine Sargenti. Music is by Darrell Smith.
The band is Dennis Brandner, Sharik Hasan, Yayoi Ikawa, Ron Jackson, David Kingsnorth, Starlyn Lopez, John Lynch, John Replogle, Shawn Rhoades, and Darrell Smith.