Slackers negotiate growing old without growing up.
Mon Apr 12 2010
LABORER RELATIONS Boyer, left, flirts with coworker Sternbach.
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Forget kick lines, forget iambic pentameter, forget dudes in togas. The crucial thing about theater is duration. Because it monkeys with our perceptions over time, a play can mimic (or even deform) the real-time mental processes of its audience. Hours compress and stretch in theaters as they do nowhere else, and so when I say that Toshiki Okada’s arch, troubling Enjoy feels much longer than its 135 minutes, I’m not—strangely—counseling you to flee.
Okada’s desultorily paced meditation reflects contemporary reality and its overstuffed inertia with perfect fidelity: Fans of mumblecore cinema will recognize Enjoy’s omega-male-in-decline motif and the affection for the awkward moment. But Okada has a deeper game than neonaturalism in mind, blurring character identities so that the text (like Mimi Lien’s nearly invisibly tilted set) can subtly shift our internal balance. On its surface, Enjoy is a slacker comedy set in a Tokyo caf, where a gaggle of part-time employees worry unproductively over their own stagnation. Drifting into long accounts of bathroom encounters and workplace jockeying, the over-30s (Kris Kling and Frank Harts) get chaffed by the still-swaggering under-30s (Steven Boyer and Joseph Midyett), while the hot new chick (Kira Sternbach) jostles among them like a cue ball breaking up a set. Dan Rothenberg, best known for his work with Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre Company, allows his cast only little, arrested movements, so every microshrug and eye roll lands like a punch line. True, Aya Ogawa’s effortless, idiomatic translation (surely the process of rabbinical focus) clicks with some actors more than others, and we are lucky that Midyett’s breeziness so lightens the final section. But even in the show’s slowest moments, Okada demonstrates how the contemporary mindset is like a bad driver: It pulls us onto the shoulder and lets time fly by.
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