Review: Mission Drift
The TEAM gets lost in a desert of obsolete dreams.
Fri Jan 13 2012
Photograph: Ves Pitts
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
The latest TEAM effort bears a highly apt title, though probably not precisely in the way the troupe would like. Mission Drift begins with piquant intelligence, streamed into an ambitious multipronged narrative. In 2007 Las Vegas, a laid-off casino worker, Joan (Amber Gray), stews amid the discarded retro signs of the so-called Neon Boneyard. With fantastical help from a sardonic 1950s pageant girl and nightclub singer, Miss Atomic (Heather Christian), she witnesses a mythological account of American industry and capitalist expansion as incarnated by two teenage Dutch settlers, Catalina (Libby King) and Joris (Brian Hastert), who stay eternally 14 and fertile as they forge ahead through centuries and west through the country, changing names as they go until—in their latest personae as rich Vegas developers—they hit a financial brick wall. (A fifth actor, Ian Lassiter, appears in different story lines as a cowboy and an Indian, both displaced.)
Director Rachel Chavkin and her deft ensemble cast sew these elements (and others) together skillfully for an hour or so, with occasional breaks for collective movement and original songs in a variety of American styles, written and performed by the remarkable Christian. But in its indulgent second hour, the show goes awry. The realer characters fade in prominence, and the writing becomes suffocatingly didactic; Catalina is subjected to a punitive comeuppance in a strained climax, and the music, previously evocative, hardens into brutalist symbolism. ("This House is Empty," sings Joan. "This House is Foreclosed." The capitals are in the script.) It is baffling that Chavkin and her capable compadres let the play go so off-course; if they simply stopped performing it halfway through, their mission would be nearer to accomplished.