Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
COVID-19 strikes. Everything stops including our beloved nights at the theater. But wait here comes virtual theater brought to us but our good friends at The Seeing Place Theater. Their dramatic reading of The Dutchman by Amiri Baraka gives us hope that theater is indeed alive. While, through no fault of their own, this is a safe way to take a break from the pandemic, it does not match the fulfillment of seeing a live performance. But if this remains the singular way to experience theater, through acclimating we will get our gift of theater returned to us.
The entire play takes place on a train when Lula, played vibrantly by Erin Cronican sits across from Clay, played by Timothy Ware, who is formidable in his own right. Lula, may be a psychic because she seems to know intimate details about Clay. She is ostentatious in her interactions with Clay, sometimes flirting, sometimes berating him. It is 1964 and segregation is still plaguing us. Since Lula is an attractive white woman and Clay a blak man, this conversation is scandalous due to Lula’s brazen personality and determination to speak her mind no matter the cost.
Overall, this was a pleasant venture Yet, virtual theater can not replace the auspiciousness of going to see a live play. There were times when I was unable to ascertain whether the actors had genuine chemistry with each other or if they were manufacturing it themselves to make up for the fact that there wasn’t an actual person in the same space for them to play off of. Ware and Cronican work very hard to overcome some minor technical glitches (although one can not determine whose viewing device is to blame). And give us some really fine moments, reminding us of the theater that we love.
If virtual theater is the new wave of the 21st century, although it will take some getting used to, it is reassuring to know that there is a way to fulfill our dramatic desires. We can only thank The Seeing Place for being pioneers and finding a way to give us the gift of theater.