Saturday, April 14, 2007

American Fiesta - April 14, 2007

First impulse when attempting to write this review of American Fiesta is to simply post a complete transcript of the play. That wouldn't be a review, but in my opinion it would be a helluva lot more entertaining than anything I could say here. It is so rich and its complexities explored so subtly I could never do it justice in a brief blog review. There are so many good lines I filled my notebook... Alas, that's not how this stuff works (and I don't have a copy of the script!) so here's my review.

American Fiesta is a prime example of why I have a particular fondness for one-person shows; it's especially fun when the playwright is the performer, as is the case here. Steven Tomlinson is making his New York stage debut with American Fiesta and as an avid theater-goer in New York all I can say is WELCOME STEVEN!

On the surface this is a play about a man obsessed with vintage Fiesta Ware "the Manhattan Project of dishes". It's a thin veneer for the complex issues this wonderful story deals with. The deeper meaning, under the pretty "pearly glow" of the colorful Fiesta Ware is: how do we learn to love each other. Not just on a one-on-one basis, but as a country, as a world.

Steven's taking on some mighty deep topics here, but according to the bio in the program he is a teacher of Economics AND Theology, among other pursuits, so tackling a broad, seemingly unrelated, range of issues is apparently par for the course for him. And his blending of these topics here is seamless.

In broad strokes the story is about Steven and his partner Leon planning to get married in Vancouver, Canada and Steven's parents resistance to accepting it. (I have to stop here and say that I want to meet Leon right now - he sounds like a dream... and he can cook!)

As to the production, crisp and sumptuous are the words that come to mind. The set by Neil Patel fed my own lust for the gorgeous Fiesta Ware that I cannot afford. It was a delight to see it displayed on such a beautiful clean-lined, yet luxurious set. It has a Frank Lloyd Wright appeal without the inherent chill of a Wright design. The lighting by David Lander is a perfect complement and projection design by Jan Hartley is simply wonderful, funny and clever.

Direction by Mark Brokaw is as crisp and clean as the set - every movement, every placement of a dish is well-thought out (the cradling of the blue 'sacred soup' bowl was particularly nice). Steven describes the collecting of Fiesta Ware: "whatever you've got, thoughtfully arranged, makes a set"; Mark Brokaw should be very proud of the set he has thoughtfully arranged here on the stage at the Vineyard.

I must note that I saw this show on the first night of previews, which means it will only get better - if such a thing is possible - and 'official' reviews will not be out until it opens on April 26th... Still.

American Fiesta
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
New York, NY 10003
Tickets: 212-353-0303
running time: approximately 1 hour 20 mins no intermission

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