Richard Maxwell’s endeavor Samara is torturous in every way. The set, including the seats are all hard plastic crates that are put together like legos. You are given a thin piece of foam to place on top, but seriously what was Kristen Robinson thinking? It felt like you were in a prison camp. Once the show begins, lifeless narration by Steve Earle (reading directly from a script) assaults us. Later on the show deviates and goes into some beat generation hipster pretentious babble. Mr Earle sounds a little like Rod McKuen and if I had been on some kind of 60’s drug trip I might have appreciated this, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.
The basic plot line revolves around the messenger (14 years-old Jasper Newell) who is owed money by the cowboy (Modesto Flako Jimenez) who only has seven dollars and a I.O.U. The messenger takes the I.O.U and steals his knife and ends up killing him. In the first five minutes if the monotonous narration or the horrific acting doesn’t get to you, what happens here will. After he kills the man, the messenger never takes the seven dollars. The messenger ends up traveling for eleven days to an outpost where a bartender Manna (Becca Blackwell) and a Drunk (Paul Lazar) are in some kind of a relationship. The messenger arrives wanting his money as Manna disgustingly cuts his toenails in front of you. In this dialogue again not only is the acting subpar, but the messenger calls both of them by the same name….confusing. Manna shots the messenger and out of guilt goes back to his home town where he meets Agnus (a decent Vinie Burrows) and her two sons (Roy Faudree, Matthew Korahais) and seriously what happens beyond here has left me stupefied. The plot is so convoluted, that I just gave up caring and wanted to escape.
Just when you think you are done, the theatre fills with fog and again more pompous rhetoric. Then the cast takes their bows and they break into a weirdly choreographed Irish Jig by Annie-B Parson, which again makes no sense, as the music thus far has been more Asian in flavor.
The direction by Sarah Benson is stilted and tries to hard to be creative. There is atonal music by Mr Earle, again perplexing as nothing seems cohesive. The musicians; Ivan Goff on Uilleann Pipes and Anna Wray on percussion play extremely well and the lighting by Victoria Bain is interesting.
For a show that is 90 minutes, if they had cut most of the overblown “poetry” and the odd dance it would have only run about 50 minutes. Crippled from the painful seating, I was at least appreciative for the bottle of water they offered because besides being uncomfortable, it was blazingly hot inside.
Samara: A.R.T./New York Theaters, 502 West 53rd ST through May 7th.