Theater review: There There. At The Chocolate Factory. By Kristen Kosmas. Dir. Paul Willis. With Kosmas and Larissa Tokmakova. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.
Writer-performer Kristen Kosmas loves books so much she’s trying to become them, or at least fold herself—like a dried flower—into their pages. In There There, her concentric caprice on Chekhovian themes, every detail of the printed word comes to receive a special caress. Near the beginning of the play we spend a moment in silence to honor the blankness of the flyleaf; at the end, the delicate contents conclude with a murmured colophon (“This text was performed in 12-point Baskerville…”). That which comes between is an exercise in interleaving: Kosmas creates a one-man show about Solyony, the violent fool from Three Sisters, assigns it to Christopher Walken and then “steps in” when the actor mysteriously falls off a ladder. Kosmas becomes Karen, a nervous understudy shadowed by an elegant translator (Larissa Tokmakova) and distracted by her own musings on duels, a dimly remembered instance of unrequited love and the burbling, liquid sounds of Tokmakova’s simultaneous Russian translation.
Barging around Three Sisters, the yearning, alienated Solyony keeps barking awkward truths, then chirruping like a bird. In Solyony’s gauche spirit, I must confess to wishing Kosmas would give over her work to another actor, since everything else here is so exquisite, so perfect. Designer Peter Ksander renders a wonderful facsimile of a Russian gallery-cum-performance hall (officers’ portraits stare in a dozen directions); you will want to snatch up a copy of the script so that you might read it under a sighing birch some summer. But Kosmas’s sweetness and upward-tending, crooning inflections are actually too closely matched to the play. She needs some other voice with more clumsy, intrusive tones to really make the pages sing.—Helen Shaw