Review: Open House
A site-specific play explores the politics of moving on up.
Wed Feb 27 2008
Be honest: Appalled by stratospheric rents, have you never fantasized about how a second terrorist attack might scare the rich assholes away? Boom! Now you've got a nice, affordable pad in a beautiful neighborhood. No one else thought of this? Okay, fine, I'm the sicko. Actually, playwright Aaron Landsman has also speculated on real estate of the near future and the result is Open House, a bleakly funny and elegiac site-specific experiment by the Foundry Theatre.
This three-person play features a young, intense broker (Castillo) and two associates (Schreck, Willis) who enact a playlet-cum-sales-pitch for audience members, who are treated as potential renters. Over the next few weeks, the work will be performed in 24 different living rooms throughout the five boroughs. The show I attended took place in a Spartan, book-lined bachelor pad in Tribeca.
Landsman's oblique and elliptical play follows a cash-strapped couple that moves to various Gotham neighborhoods (even, briefly, Philadelphia). Their scenes are played out in a minimalist, homey production staged by Melanie Joseph, around a couch, with a jerry-rigged lighting system that flips on and off for scenes. Even though Landsman's wryly satirical script targets the boho lifestyle, you'll notice an undertow of tragedy—Castillo's hard sell seems to be occurring after an unspecified calamity. Reinforcing the creepiness is Jane Shaw's acute sound design, in which neighborhood noises grow subtly in volume, until it feels as if there's no wall between you and the dark, menacing outside. We're there to repopulate New York, at our peril. Welcome back, Open House seems to say; there went the neighborhood.