Saturday, March 4, 2017

Review of Broken Nose Theatre's At The Table

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called At The Table. It was by Michael Perlman and it was directed by Spenser Davis. It was about a bunch of friends who go to a vacation home in the summer for a weekend. And while they are there they get into a lot discussions about deep topics: like gender, sexuality, and race. They start to disagree about each other's ideas and they get into arguments while some of them also have their feelings all spill out at once. It is called At The Table because Chris (Elise Spoerlein) says that there are certain people who are invited to the table to discuss certain topics, and if you are not a part of that community you can't be at that table. Personally, I believe that you shouldn't be able to make decisions for a community you aren't a part of but you can have an opinion and support the community. I think that is a less restrictive version of what Chris is saying. I think the play revolves around the idea of who can sit at the table, and in the end supports the less restrictive view. I thought this was an amazing show. It makes you feel like you are part of the actual discussion. There are not that many plays that make you feel that immersed.

Lauren (Echaka Agba) really wanted to set up her two friends Elliot (David Weiss) and Nicholas (Johnard Washington). They are left alone and Elliot and Nicholas start having a very deep conversation, but they start to lean in different directions. I thought there were some really nice moments in this scene. Elliot had so many apologies; he even apologized for apologizing, which I know I have done before. Nicholas would do this thing where he would say something that was an insult but not quite an insult. And he would say, "yes, but I said it with a smile!" I thought that was hilarious and a cute quirky thing that he did. This scene really shows how complicated it can be when you have a friend trying to set you up with someone else. I think that maybe she wanted to set them up because they are both nice and gay, but that is not really a reason. She likes both of them and thought if they liked her they must both like each other. They might have been friends but, when you push a romantic agenda on them, people might get hurt because they aren't both interested. Like one of them might jump into the lake out of humiliation. Maybe.... Lauren's role is kind of like the mom; she is the responsible one who just wants for everyone to be happy. But Nicholas says that she is acting like a "mammy" toward these white people and she needs to stop doing that and get her own life. I think that makes her question everything and I think that is why certain chains of events that happen later in the play happen. I feel like she does maybe want to be a caretaker, but now she feels like it is wrong because of what her friend had to say.

I think that throughout this show you can see that, even when people are friends, they can have conflicting ideas. The straight white men in the show, Stuart (Evan Linder) and Nate (Adam Soule), seemed kind of biased at points but they didn't think they were because they had such a "diverse" group of friends, like an African-American woman, and a Jewish-Asian-American woman, a gay couple, and a feminist. But there really are a lot more kinds of people out there, and I think one of the most interesting conversations that the group had was about how they were not that diverse. Sometimes Stuart and Nate's biases even seem unintentional, like when they had just been talking about how women don't belong in the kitchen all the time, but then start ordering the women around and ask them to get more snacks for them--which the women go and do with Leif (Benjamin Brownson), who is Elliot's boyfriend. Then Stuart, Nate, and Elliot all are hanging out being "bros" together. And Elliot keeps calling attention to all these manly stereotypes he's going to have to comply with so that he can become one of the guys. But Leif has not stayed around in manly land; he went off to hang out with the girls. And when he comes back he sees his boyfriend in a nonsexual pile with the other guys and everyone starts piling up on each other. It is one of those moments that friends have that make sense at the time but later make no sense at all. I think that Nate and Stuart don't see their own biases because of how much fun they have with the rest of the people there. But sometimes what is fun for them, like joking around about ordering women to the kitchen to get snacks, ends up not being much of a joke because they actually expect the women to get them the snacks.

I think the scene with all the woman at the table at breakfast in act two was a break from all the arguing. It was a heartwarming moment and you get to see them create their first inside joke. Sophie (Jennifer Cheung) is the new addition to the group of friends. She is Stuart's new girlfriend, which is pretty awkward for Lauren who is his old girlfriend. She is basically telling a story of her sister scaring a guy off when she was at an abortion clinic. He sister had screamed "back the f**k off." Then whenever a new person walks into the room, Sophie, Lauren, and Chris scream that at them as a joke. I think this was a really relatable moment because inside jokes are such a big part of friendship. This is the solidifying thing for them becoming real friends.

People who would like this show are people who like inside jokes, friend piles, and jumping into lakes out of embarrassment. I have never seen a show that seemed so authentic while exploring so many relevant topics. It makes you really feel like you are at the table. I thought this was an amazing show and I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Matthew Freer

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