Review: Contemporary's uninspired Composition

A lack of creativity
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  April 12, 2011

There is an interesting metaphorical framing device for this tale and a few pleasant music interludes, but by and large Composition, an original play by the Contemporary Theater Company, is a case study in loosey-goosey storytelling (through April 17).

Written by company member Andy Hoover and directed by artistic director Christopher J. Simpson, it might have enough meat for a short play, but lacks the stuff to nourish us over two long acts.

Since on the program we are asked, under the title, "Who is writing us, and what do they want?," it gives away nothing further to point out that this concluding disclosure deflates any potential suspense.

The play is a contemplation of creativity, so at first we see the Composer (Amelia Giles) slowly striking individual notes on a keyboard, listening intently between them. What appears to be a blank wall next to her is actually a stretched canvas, maybe 12'x8', and the Painter (Curt Larson) begins sponging blue paint from a bucket onto the top portion.

Creativity is broadened to include trivial decision-making when furniture is brought in and the Young Mover (Christine Cauchon) is joined by the Old Mover (Stephen Grueb), who is painstakingly deliberate about where he places chairs around a table.

As a mountain landscape slowly takes shape in the mural, reference to a perhaps mythical person named Toby is intro-duced. His name was used to frighten chil-dren. But the Young Mover claims to have worked with Toby . . . hmmm, lying? Doesn't matter. The mystery dissipates into audience giggles when two characters later carry a sign saying "Toby" with an arrow pointing up toward themselves.

The movers begin conversing in Mamet-esque fits and starts, but that device is soon dropped, not to any stylistic purpose but apparently because no one responsible for the production believes in rewriting. The movers may represent intermediaries, those who bring the products of creativity to us, such as actors. These characters are given assignments by unspecified "outsiders" — consumers of creativity, such as art collectors and theatergoers?

This scene is stretched out because the painter has to finish his painting before we can get to the play proper, well into the first act. The central action begins with a man writing pages that are scattered about his table. He is Prof. Silas Gatterly (Shawn Fennell). Professor of what, we don't know. "Babysitting" him is an armed guard (Jacqueline A. Barros), whom we later learn is being paid $2 million for her six-month task, after having spent years erasing her past before she could begin. Very mysterious.

She is a federal agent, and this is a government project, top secret, hush-hush. They are in an isolated cabin, with Colorado mountains behind them. At various times the Russians and Al Qaeda have tried to intercept and kill replacement guards. (Not secretly follow them to the cabin? Oh, never mind.) A federal agency, the ODD (Office of Dystopian Deferral), has been conducting this project with the professor for the past eight years, his purpose being to figure something out and make a report. Two years before, his niece, Ellie Gatterly (Laura Kennedy), came to stay with him, knowing she would never be able to leave, which is pretty hard to swallow. Since Kennedy has talent as a harpist, a useful gift in a lonely mountain cabin, that was thrown in to entertain us.

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Related: Review: CTC's minimalist Romeo and Juliet, Photos: The Providence Phoenix Annual Best Awards Show, Play by play: March 12, 2010, More more >
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