In their newly acquired space, The Tank puts up a casual and energetic production about culture and identity. While Sam’s Tea Shack is conversational and intimate, the thoughts feel scattered and the flow is bumpy.
Sam Soghor, presumably playing himself, invites the audience and his special guests to partake in tea, snacks and conversation. Sam talks about Jewish groups and alludes to how their migratory histories might influence his cultural identity in conjunction with American culture. He tells stories of his childhood and of going to high school with Lin Manuel Miranda. The most emphatic are stories of his son and how Sam wishes his son to experience culture.
Normandy Sherwood’s design is vibrant and eclectic, creating a warm, welcoming space for the anticipated and invited audience participation. Littered with objects that a tea shack might have, the atmosphere of the space is that of living room full of gaudy assorted treasures – which suits the informality of the piece.
While the themes of culture and identity are clear, the flow of topics is sporadic, and it is occasionally too obvious where Ben Gassman’s writing meets Soghor’s improvisation. The more poignant thoughts of the piece are lost in improvisation and audience interaction. Within Meghan Finn’s organic direction, it is easy to watch Soghor tell these stories despite the distraction of the unnecessary microphone.
With a little more polish and finesse, the purpose of this production will be clear and more poignant.
Sam’s Tea Shack: The Tank, 312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor. Closes October 1.