Broom Street Theater’s “900” is one sweet ride
Post by Christian Neuhaus on 5/10/2012 2:00pm
During the Mercury Short Shorts days at Mercury Lounge some time ago I remember being intrigued by a selection from Rob Matsushita’s in-process play 900, which would later have a reading there.
The setup was simple--a conversation between a phone sex operator and a client--but I was fascinated by the potential of seeing a relationship develop in that context and “in real time” between two interesting characters.
900 is a self-identified love story, and the stakes have the potential to be enticingly high where one party hanging up could mean the characters never interact again This month at Broom Street Theater is the premiere of 900 as a full-length production, and it’s quite a remarkable experience.
I had a couple of perspectives as I watched the play. As a writer, I was intellectually interested in the anatomy of the conversation, and observing the process by which Augustina (Katherine Boomsma) and Ben (N-dig0) revealed information about themselves through evocative biographical stories and by reacting to one another. One of the great things about the script is how it feels like a natural conversation yet is constructed in a way that is dramatically engaging. The dialogue is smart and engrossing without being showily clever, and Matsushita has an artful touch in his use of words to create tension and, at just the right time, alleviate it with a sharp, funny line.
In addition to being aware of the writing craft on display, as an audience member I was caught up emotionally in the story. It was a pleasure to watch actors Boomsma and N-dig0 as their characters went on their journey.
Director Kathy Lynn Sliter has done commendable work in creating an eminently theatrical dimension for a play in which language is the only way the characters can connect. It’s intriguing to see Augustina and Ben interact even though the physical separation between the characters is always evident, with a diagonal line across the stage demarcating their physical locations.
I enjoyed Augustina’s use of a corkboard to keep track of the facts she picks up about Ben, both because it brought back some memories and because it was an interesting visual compliment to their conversation--one that Ben unknowingly comments on when he observes that a person isn’t just a "collection of facts."
The frame of the story is a call to a phone sex operator so there are, you know, adult situations. Including one situation that is, to quote an audience member from a talkback, "hot."
900 is at Broom Street Theater, 1119 Williamson Street, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. until May 19. Tickets are $9.
I should point out that I know both Rob Matsushita and Kathy Lynn Sliter. However, the last time I saw Rob at Broom Street Theater, he swore at me from the stage. The last time I saw Kathy at Broom Street Theater, it was for a film shoot where she played an assassin who killed me with a playing card — after I brought donuts, even.
Christian Neuhaus is a writer whose comic short plays have been produced by local theater groups. You've Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery!, a play he wrote with Dane101 contributor Rick Stemm, sold out its world-premiere run in Madison, was part of the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, and was voted Favorite Theater Production in Isthmus's 2011-2012 Madison's Favorites poll. In March 2011 his comic retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story "The Red-Headed League" was among the plays in Novel Ideas, performed by Actor's Factory. In March 2012 Christian was part of the first performance of Are We Delicious?, where the ensemble develops a set of eight short plays within a single week.