The side project. By Scott T. Barsotti. Directed by Devon de Mayo. With Robert Koon, Diana Slickman, Kathryn Acosta. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission.
Theater review by Kevin Thomas
A couch, two chairs, a window, and a coffeemaker enveloped by a shrine of used mugs. That’s the entire set for Jet Black Chevrolet, Scott T. Barsotti’s new play premiering as part of a two-play rep at the side project.
The pajama-clad Sam and Catherine Curie (Robert Koon and Diana Slickman) have seemingly lost track of time. In a permanent state of either up-too-late or awake-too-early, the pair seesaw between Catherine’s fits of paranoia over the outside world and Sam’s aggressive indifference to anything beyond the couch. There are only two things in their tiny universe that matter: making more coffee, and the black car that’s suddenly parked in front of their house.
Alternatingly comic, morose, indifferent, or unhinged, it takes time to realize that the Curies have a twentysomething son who is long missing and now presumed dead. Perhaps it's the trigger for their current thrall, though there are implications that they were off long before that. Barsotti’s script is often obscure to a fault. Information is withheld to generate mystery, rather than for a discernible reason. The Curies’ emotions—while faithfully acted—are so erratic that some grounding in their story would be welcome. But no details or reliable statements are forthcoming.
While it strives for absurdism, the genre’s conventions feel artificial. In the tradition of the form, there’s almost literal conflict between the vast universe and the Curies, a general disconnect from reality, and a host of repeating, seemingly meaningful cues and events. But the story is so shrouded that the parts don’t add up, and the central MacGuffin, the titular black Chevrolet, figures very little in the story.
What was supposed to be a foreboding, psychological journey propelled by haunting everyday objects is more of a couch-potato drama, and the side project’s usual flair for small, clever sets and distinctive atmosphere can’t propel a play that has no driver.