Brief Chronicle, Books 6-8
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Theater review by Helen Shaw
Alex Borinsky writes very light, very weird comedies that cut unexpectedly sharp. They’re full of droll twentysomething ennui: Actors get bored and change roles; the texts’ dry tone is the sound of a humorous shrug. But Borinsky (Of Government), who has a degree in permaculture, is actually writing about environmental and existential collapse. In Brief Chronicle, Books 6-8, the erosion of personal connections is conflated with the climate apocalypse. Weeping can become a world-ending storm; a romance turns on whether you should you lead baby turtles towards the sea.
There are no Books 1-5: The title is a ruse to give us the sense of an ongoing narrative. Julian (Susanna Stahlmann) is a young man in Baltimore with an addiction-prone mother (the superb Jacob Perkins) and a wild crush on the metaphysically confusing Dan (Janice Amaya). Mom points to the chaos outside (“Look at the bodies of the drowned. Look at the waterlogged trailers”) but Julian is more interested in impressing Dan—who may somehow also be the Boston Marathon bomber—with his commitment to diversity. Dialogue flies off in all directions, following only poetic logic. A peppy Marching Band (the extremely funny Nicole Spiezio) dogs the proto-couple’s steps, following them on the Mexican vacation where they see the turtle babies. The ocean is played by a baby pool.
The script’s epigraph defines Noh drama thusly: “A person meets a ghost, dances with a ghost, recognizes the ghost.” Dan, with his terrifying past and ability to materialize suddenly, is clearly the ghost, and Noh’s use of masks informs the way Borinsky and director Augustus Heagerty play with the actors’ gender expression. In Borinskyland, any identity’s shawl can easily slip off the shoulders; there’s a shimmer of many things being true at once. The production is simultaneously joyful and devastated, and the way forward out of crisis is proposed as both action and inaction. “There are two places in my mind,” says Dan, “I cannot fit them together.” Chronicle creates an atmosphere of indeterminacy and sudden apparition where unmatched possibilities can and do fit. Hopelessness, for instance, calls hope into being.
Access Theater (Off-Off Broadway). By Alex Borinsky. Directed by Augustus Heagerty. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr. No intermission.