Review: Spy Garbo

Technology dwarfs art in a history lesson about World War II.

  • Photograph: Jim Baldassare

    spygarbo804REV

  • Photograph: Jim Baldassare

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  • Photograph: Jim Baldassare

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  • Photograph: Jim Baldassare

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Photograph: Jim Baldassare

spygarbo804REV

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Like many productions at the futuristic 3LD Art & Technology Center, Spy Garbo has the weird flameless energy of a microwave oven. Playwright Sheila Schwartz's program bio describes her as "devoted to historical research and academic projects that connect film and propaganda, European history, philosophy and literature," and that's what her script delivers. But drama is conspicuously absent from that list and from the show, which suggests a video game of a seminar paper.

Spy Garbo imagines three major World War II figures—Spanish fascist Francisco Franco (Rattazzi), Nazi spymaster Wilhelm Canaris (Hauck) and English double agent Kim Philby (Hoeppner)—in a library in limbo, where they bicker and speechify about their reputations. Cast to physical type, the actors acquit themselves well in the self-defenses Schwartz affords them, which are informative but wordy and stiffly expositional. And although the play wants to argue for the virtues of subtlety as opposed to hollow glamour (Schwartz's Canaris is a noble martyr, while Philby litters the stage with flasks), Kevin Cunningham's flashy staging tells a different story. The actors and audience sit inside the massive tech ribbon of a curved 130-foot HD screen, which yanks the audience's wandering attention with impressive, often lovely montages of computer animation, newsreel footage, archival photographs and cinematic shots of a woman in pretty costumes. There is even a hologram machine on hand to give the illusion of three-dimensionality. Perhaps 3LD will someday find a text that does the same.

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3LD Art & Technology Center. By Sheila Schwartz. Dir. Kevin Cunningham. With Steven Hauck, Chad Hoeppner, Steven Rattazzi. 1hr 25mins. No intermission.