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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review- Hiding Behind Comets (Nicu's Spoon)

The Fab Marquee review by Dianna Martin.

I have to give playwright Brian Dykstras credit for creating a fantastic "what if" situation in the Nicu's Spoon's production of Hiding Behind Comets, a play about how the Jonestown Massacre, which occurred 30 years ago, effects three 20-somethings in a rural part of America. In fact, there is so much potential in this show's concept, plot, and social commentary, that it makes it all the more frustrating that the play missed the mark on various levels to the point that it wasn't until halfway though the play that I actually cared about what was happening on stage.

David Tully (Troy), Rebecca Challis (Honey), and Oliver Conant (Cole)
Photo Credit: Katie Rosin/Kampfire PR

Upon being seated in the theatre, the actors interacted with the audience casually, as if you were a patron in a bar. Unfortunately, my interest in most of the characters once the play started waned quickly. A brother and sister who are twins, Honey and Troy (Rebecca Challis and David Tully) are running their father's bar, while Honey tries to set her friend Erin (Kiran Malhotra) up with her brother. Despite it being nearly empty, they cannot close the bar because it's too early, and there is one lone customer; Cole (Oliver Conant) who becomes increasingly more and more hostile in a short period of time after the play starts when he asks about the cigarette machine. In fact, I as an audience member was wondering, since Cole was so hostile, rude, and obviously a troublemaker, why Troy didn't just kick him out of the bar; I mean, after all, it is the family bar. Ah, but if he did, we wouldn't have a show...and therein lies the beginning of my unease with this production, which only got worse before it got any better.

I question the playwright and the director for making decisions such as that, that were so unbelievable in real life, so when Tully takes Malhotra downstairs for sex, leaving his sister alone in the bar with this man who is obviously a loose cannon, I was completely thrown out of the play. Then, when Challis begins to flirt with Conant and talk about how she lusts for her brother, somehow feeling that she can confide with him, I felt the dialogue simply spiraling out into left field...nothing seemed important enough to me; the characters, their situation. I think it's because I just didn't believe any of it. At all. And that problem lies in the script more than anything else.

David Tully (Troy), Rebecca Challis (Honey), and Kiran Malhotra (Erin)
Photo Credit: Katie Rosin/Kampfire PR

I feel the play really started halfway through, when Conant began what is actually a beautifully acted and written monologue about the nightmare that was his job as a guard for Jim Jones back before the massacre and through it. In vivid detail he described the horrors he witnessed and took a part in; and how he made it out of there alive. This is when I woke up, when I began to have an interest; and the ignorance of the younger characters about anything having to do with the Jonestown Massacre was an interesting commentary on our current generations who don't seem to know facts of the past or learn from them. Then came an interesting scenario of why Conant really is in the bar that night - and what he plans to do. It was a brilliant situation. There were some good moments between Tully and Conant after Troy convinces his sister and her friend to leave and let him close up, because he knows that their patron is dangerous, but it was still drawn out and again began to get tedious because of excess dialogue that should have been trimmed. I did appreciate, however, the acting between the two men, and Tully's angst with the situation.

Unfortunately, I walked out of the theatre really having only gleamed some sort of enthusiasm for the long monologue that Conant told, and certain aspects of the last half of the play, which is a shame because it could have been so much more. I think with careful re-writes, and actors really dealing with each other in every moment, not just when there is a gun in someone's face, this play could be tremendous. But as it is now, it makes mostly for a wonderful short one-man play.

Nicus Spoon presents
Brian Dykstras'
Hiding Behind Comets
July 8-26, 2009 (Wed-Sun @ 8pm)
The Spoon Theater

Tickets are $18 and are now available online at or by calling 866-811-4111. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Spoon Theater Box Office, 1 hour prior to performance.

The Spoon Theater | 38 West 38th St, 5th Fl | Manhattan.

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