REVIEW: Ozma and Harriet (Tympanic Theatre)

Grab remote control. Change channel.

 

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Tympanic Theatre Company presents
 
Ozma and Harriet
 
Written by Daniel Caffrey
Directed by
Timothy Bambara
the side project theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis, Chicago (map)
through April 18th (more info)

reviewed by Ian Epstein 

Imagine a young and well-heeled family of three.  Mom is named Harriet (Cara Olansky), and she stays at home and cares for the kid, Ozma (Christopher Acevedo), while Dad, named Frank (Paul E. Martinez) dons his pristine white lab coat with determination and trots off to work, where he is perhaps one of the most respected men in the field of robotics or some similar field. Sounds idyllic enough, right?

ozma and harriet But this child is one of Dad’s lab projects and because he is an android in an early stage of development, Ozma spends most of the day in a "suspended state" (i.e. napping) leaving Mom with little to do.  And since Dad is a workaholic scientist on an analytic diet of restricted emotions, the sex is infrequent if at all. So Harriet futzes in sexual frustration and she paces back and forth and watches a lot of early 90s TV from the comfort of her couch while her marriage slowly starts to crumble.

When her boredom reaches a tipping point, she traipses over to where Ozma naps and pulls our beta-Android friend from his daydreams of electric sheep for a little light conversation and some company bathing in the educative glow of the early 90s sitcom. Educative because Ozma, though he already knows a lot, is still in the knowledge acquisition phase.  Maybe they bump once in the dark but before long there’s some inter-mechanical, borderline incest that everyone has to process as things begin to unwind.

Meanwhile, in the background of it all there’s a silent, screwball chorus of hipster-caveman-zombies who double as grips and triple as the sitcom production team as well as an off-tempo laugh track suffering from a high-pitched case of occasional hysteria.  Ozma and Harriet is at it’s best during these surreal moments when these folks, stationed in every crevice of side project’s tiny space, erupt into their fits of forced and frantic laughter, pop up from behind a couch with a manic smile, or interfere in some other way with the low-stakes, almost-incest farce playing out on stage.

Ozma and Harriet builds all of this up slowly over the course of the first act and the emotionally torqued relationship between Ozma, Harriet, and Frank helps tremendously to understand the opening moments where Ozma politely shuffles around the edges of a sexual encounter with a down-to-business, matter-of-fact call girl named Sandra (Jamie Bragg) who delivers, next to the chorus, the most well-attuned performance. Much of the second act is spent watching what happens when the ball rolls down the hill and everything goes to shit. 

26411_410308615475_185907470475_5377426_3058531_n Sitcom references and structural sitcom-mimicry heavily saturate the play, which feels like a farce trapped in the same room as the bad parts of a soap opera.  Scenes are presented with too much deference to reality – a directorial choice that makes them feel too sincerely acted (or perhaps not acted with enough of that special manic quality that makes a farce so fun to watch). The chorus works wonderfully because their silliness is always energetic, always so far beyond the real that we’ve no choice but to laugh out of surprise as well. Comparatively, Harriet and Ozma and Frank all feel a little indecisive. 

An audience needs to know when to laugh or cower, when to cry or scream in response to robot sex, murder, and, yes, the dissolution of a failed marriage.  Sure, it’s light-hearted fun – but without choices strong enough either to indicate this or make the audience forget all about it and imagine themselves within the mis-wired mind of an android, Ozma and Harriet teeters precariously on the edge of even being theater.

 
Rating:
 

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Cast and Creative Team

Chris Acevedo* / Ozma

Christopher Acevedo is a founding member of Tympanic Theatre Company. He moved to Chicago in 2007 and since has appeared in Pavement Group‘s fracture/mechanics, the Genesis Ensemble‘s The Secrets Project, Red Tape Theatre‘s inaugural CFAN Festival (with Genesis Ensemble), Drangoncello’s And Time Runs On, Dramatis Personae‘s Feats of Strength and The Side Project’s Splayed Verbiage (Cut to the Quick Festival). With Tympanic Theatre Company, he has appeared in Splintered Crosses, The House of Weird Death, Gregor & the Squonk, and most recently in Bastards of Young. Next he will be appearing with Tympanic in Curious Theatre Branch‘s Rhinoceros Festival, in January and with the Genesis Ensemble in Red Tape Theatre’s CFAN Festival in February. He earned his B.A. in Theatre from Florida State University.

Cara Olansky / Harriet Younger

A Massachusetts native, Cara has been in Chicago since 2006. Before making her official transfer from the North East, she received her BA in Theatre Performance from Butler University. While enrolled at Butler, she spent a semester in London studying Comedy, and Playwriting at Middlesex University. There she wrote her original script "Rhythms of the Underground", which recently made its Chicago debut with Dramatis Personae in 2008. To further her theater practices, Cara has trained with The Actors Studio of Newburyport MA, and taken workshops with Bread and Puppet Theatre, The San Francisco Mime Troupe, Profiles Theatre, Claire Simon Casting and the Black Box Acting Studio. Some of her favorite credits include "Josie" in The Skryker (Butler University), "The Bride" in Blood Wedding (Butler University), "Mayella" in To Kill a Mockingbird (Theater in the Open), "Katherine" in The Taming of the Shrew (Theater in the Open), and "Marcia Marie" in Where’s My Money? (Dramatis Personae). Cara spends her days loving her job as a Preschool Teacher. My love to the fam, Tim, and "05".

Paul E. Martinez* / Dr. Frank Younger

Paul E Martinez came to Chicago after graduating from Florida State University’s School of Theatre in 2006 and is a graduate of Second City’s Improv Conservatory. In Chicago, he has been seen in Los Desaparecidos (Babes With Blades), as well as in Splintered Crosses, House of Weird Death, and Gregor and the Squonk with the Tympanic Theatre Company. Paul has also performed with improv ensembles Tymprov and Colorado Beautification Coalition.

Jamie Bragg / Sandra

Jamie Bragg (SANDRA) is delighted to make her Tympanic Theatre debut. Chicago credits include Cant in The Castle (Oracle Theatre); Susannah in A Murder of Crows (GroundUp Theatre); and performing understudy for Kimberly/Doreen in JON (Collaboraction, Joseph Jefferson Best Adaptation 2008). Other favorite roles include Catherine in Proof and A in Three Tall Women. Also a dramaturg, she was a 2005-2006 literary intern at Actors Theatre of Louisville, home of the Humana Festival of New American Plays. She holds BAs in Drama and English from the University of Georgia.

Jared Nell / TV Ozma / Man

David Boren / Grip Ensemble

Dave Boren serves as the Director of Programming at the Oracle Theatre and has also appeared in their productions of The Castle, Zero, Termin Vox Machina, and all of the Disturbed shows. He is damn satisfied to be collaborating for a second time with Tim Bambara, Cara Olansky, and Jamie Bragg and making his debut with the Tympanic crew.

Ali Delianides* / Grip Ensemble

Ali Delianides graduated from Florida State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre. After graduation she originated the touring role of Mama in Omaha Theater Company for Young Audiences first national tour of Old Yeller. In Chicago she has been seen in Tympanic’s productions of Gregor and the Squonk (Margaret), And Then it Burst (Alice), with Point of Contention in their annual CHAOS play festivals, and with Chicago Kid’s Company in their productions of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Tortoise and the Hare. Ali is also a teaching artist with Victory Gardens’ educational outreach program.

Shelley Geiszler / Grip Ensemble

Shelley graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television with a B.A. in acting in 2007. Los Angeles credits include Jillian in Chronology of the Day and Tasla in The Condemned Man’s Bicycle. In Chicago, Shelley most recently worked on Theater of Souls at Villiage Players Theatre, and played Charlotte in Theatre-Hikes’ production of Charlotte’s Web. Shelley is a founding member and proprietor of The Rough House, a new rehearsal and performance space in Logan Square.

Jonathan Harden / Grip Ensemble

Jonathan Harden has come to Chicago from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he spent all his time with Shakespeareans and like ruffians. He is overjoyed to be working with Tympanic, especially since they have created plays of such a darkly mythopoeic nature, and looks forward to frightening the life out of any small children you happen to have with you.


Dan Caffrey* / Playwright

Daniel Caffrey is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Tympanic Theatre Company. Writing and directing credits with Tympanic include Splintered Crosses, The House Of Weird Death, and Gregor And The Squonk. His short plays have been produced in Chicago by ARFTCO, Chicago Dramatists, Dramatis Personae, Dream Theatre Company, Hobo Junction, iO, and WildClaw Theatre. Occasionally an actor, he has performed with The Side Project (Slipping), Tympanic, and WNEP (this year’s SKALD storytelling competition). He has also directed with The Side Project in their Cut To The Quick festivals. Upcoming projects include his short play "Wishbone" in Dramatis Personae‘s Feats Of Strength festival, "Yukon Cornelius, Greatest Prospector In The North" with ARFTCO’s Christmas Spectacular, and writing and directing "Pogo" for The Ruckus’ Tell It & Speak It & Think It & Breathe It. He holds BA degrees in Creative Writing and Theatre, and is a graduate of the Training Center at iO.

Timothy Bambara / Director

Timothy Bambara (Director) is thrilled to be working with Tympanic Theatre and the OZMA-MATIC Team! He has been producing, directing and acting in Chicago for the past 4 years.  He received his MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2006. He is a recipient of the 2008 CAAP Grant and was a participant in the 2008 Chicago Director¿s Lab.  Timothy is a founding member of Dramatis Personae, Inc. Favorite directing credits include Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Of Mice and Men, Glengarry Glen Ross,The Cook (asst. dir. to Henry Godinez, Goodman Theatre), Twelfth Night (asst. dir. to Jay Paul Skelton, City Lit), Den of Thieves and Where¿s My Money? (Dramatis Personae), and May is Special Time of Year, which was seen in Tympanic Theatre¿s Bastards of Young festival last fall. As an actor, he was most recently seen in Chicago Fusion Theatre¿s 12 Hungry Men. He will be directing Lost Generations with Prologue Theatre at the Landmark Festival this April and The Rise of Emperor Eric with Gorilla Tango Theatre this June.

* Denotes company member

    

One Response

  1. Have quickly thought))))

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