Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Heather Woodbury's Tale of 2 Cities and TBA's Strange Serendipity 

Tale of 2 Cities: An American Joyride in Multiple Tracks
Track One: Hallucination Map Brookl(y)(a)ngeles

So I’m on the phone with my friend in NYC. She says, ‘I found out where Coney Island got its’ name. It was this area infested with rabbits. The Dutch name for rabbit is conick or something. I guess it got anglicized to Coney.’ I hang up and hustle so I can make it to Heather Woodbury’s Tale of 2 Cities. I grab a seat. The story begins that Miriam, an activist, New York Jew who was beaten on Easter (rabbits!) near Coney Island. Welcome to the strange synchronicity of TBA 2004, folks.

Track two, Hallucination Map: Brookl(y)(a)ngeles begins with Angela De Mayo, a 13 year old African American girl, being questioned about Miriam’s beating. In the span of a one-hour track, Heather Woodbury becomes twenty different people. Her Jan Weisman, radio host of “Tawk ya head awf” on WBAI who talks to callers while she eats a pastrami on rye is downright chilling. I swear her hair turned dark brown and her face aged 15 years. The way the characters lives interwove seemed very real and natural. Heather Woodbury links the way that a story we hear on the radio or the news effects all of our lives juxtaposed with the reaction of those who know the victim or the alleged perpetrator personally. One of my favorite parts was when Hannah, Miriam’s’ niece e-mails her brother Josh to tell him that she ran into a rabbi at Starbucks. The rabbi happens to tell Hannah that Starbucks is kosher, which she finds “bizarrely reassuring” eventhough she knows its not true. The writing itself and the story were intriguingly poetic and authentic, but Heather Woodbury’s acting pulled me out of the world of the show and into my uncomfortable wooden church pew. I couldn’t understand why Angela DeMayo a 13 year-old, African American girl from the boroughs talked like an 8 year-old from South Carolina. For this displaced NYC Jew, it was sometimes familiar and comforting to hear about Nathan’s, Coney Island and a rabbi in Starbucks, but other times I found it irritating to hear a bad Bronx accent coming out of the mouth of a woman with the residue of some other accent still in her mouth and who is obviously not from New York. That is not to say that only a New Yorker should do a New York accent. Its just if you’re going to do one, you’ve got to do it damn well. I know that it is a tremendous and brave feat for one woman to play twenty characters ranging from a rabbi to a cop to a 13 year-old African American girl. Her ability is phenomenal. Half the time, she hit it right on and I watched her transform, a changeling into the skin of someone else, but the other half it was very distracting and overall it took away from the performance as a whole.

A brief disclaimer: I only went to one track, as I was sandwiching it between TBA events and that phone call to my friend in NYC where she told me Coney Island had a lot of bunnies running around it. I’m told that it works better if you see all three in sequence.

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