archive
links
essays

Yankee Tavern

Where better to discuss the unthinkable than in a bar? And where better to put the bar than in Manhattan, not far from ground zero in the endless war on terrorism. Yankee Tavern, the site of Steven Dietz' newest effort, is a haunted, crumbling venue, but what goes on in the hearts and minds of its owners and clientele belies the setting.

Leigh Miller as Adam
Leigh Miller as Adam
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Adam (Leigh Miller) recently inherited the place from his dad, who, we are lead to believe, committed suicide. Adam's fiancée, Janet (Karen Slack) reminds him that he promised to sell the decrepit property and get a legitimate job when they get married.

Karen Slack as Janet
Karen Slack as Janet
Photo: Michael Ensminger

This relationship is a train wreck waiting to happen: Adam sends out dozens of wedding invitations that get returned (most of the addressees don't exist); and Janet mentions to Adam that her friends have suggested she have an affair before the wedding, just like bachelors do, right?

Miller's easy-going Adam lures us into believing that despite his odd quirks—for example, he refuses to talk about his thesis—he's a straight up guy with the possibility of an academic career ahead of him. On the other hand, Slack's Janet caroms from surety to insecurity, trying to find her place in the wounded landscape of post-9-11 New York.

Marcus Waterman as Ray
Marcus Waterman as Ray
Photo: Michael Ensminger
An equal partner in the tavern's gestalt is Ray (Marcus Waterman), an old friend of Adam's dad and the most loyal and knowledgeable patron of the establishment and its history. What's most unsettling about Ray is that he is what folks these days like to call a "conspiracy theorist," which means he doesn't believe what the mass media tells him.

The playwright draws us into Ray's alternative universe by playing on the fellow's eccentricities and flakey beliefs, such as the imagined esoteric cult behind the hippie-era Starbucks' label. Seconds later, before you're done figuring that one out, Ray has seamlessly transitioned to Big Oil, which, he claims, rigged the Bush v. Gore election with hanging chads.

Next up, he questions whether the moon landing ever happened, before moving onto the connection between Yoko Ono and the Bay of Pigs. Waterman fully embraces the batty Ray and makes him a character worthy of New York's eccentric reputation, replete with cockeyed hat and an inspired mix and match wardrobe topped off by a flip-brimmed fedora.

Anthony Powell as Palmer
Anthony Powell as Palmer
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Just as you're ready to write off Ray as an ungrounded free spirit, the underlying power of the script explodes. Ray, it seems, knows some facts about 9-11 that are earthshaking. The aftershocks continue as Adam's thesis comes into play and a stranger, Palmer (Anthony Powell), who knows too much, shows up. Whose side is he on? Powell makes us wonder.

Dietz deftly gets us to question our assumptions about "conspiracy theories." The term itself is an ad hominem, a ploy to label anyone who, like Ray, doesn't believe what the mass media tells him. The facts, on the other hand, leave room for debate. This may be an unpopular message, but it's one that needs to be aired.

The second of three stops in the rolling world premiere of Steven Dietz' Yankee Tavern runs at Curious Theatre Company through October 24th. 303.623.0524 or online at www.curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows

 

Current Reviews | Home | Webmaster