Chatter

Whitney Harris, Roxanna Kadyrova and Stacey Weckstein star in Sly Fennec Productions’s Chatter by Sam Kahn at The Tank in Midtown West. Original photo by Lucia Buricelli.

By Andrew Andrews

Maybe I should just jump right in and tell you why this is a five-star show: it’s rare to come across a work that is so experimental and yet so completely engrossing at the same time. Too often in theater you either get one or the other: a show that ignores traditional storytelling so it can play with the boundaries of live theater, or a show that’s so formulaic that it doesn’t give us anything new at all. Sam Kahn’s Chatter, however, is a traditional story, untraditionally told. In the beginning, it’s paced like you’re watching a black box portrayal of the Gilmore Girls; however, it’s not about a mother and daughter in a small town, but a twenty-something Québécoise (with an Eastern Bloc accent) named Claire (Roxanna Kadyrova) moving to New York City. Overall, it’s a lot like watching a reading where the actors actually bothered to memorize the lines (until they give you the illusion that they didn’t)… but it’s not a reading at all. And a couple of times it feels like you’re watching a dress rehearsal (complete with interruptions!)… but that’s just an illusion as well. At various times there are novel uses of projected backdrops, explorations of multiple deliveries of the same lines, and so much subtle, effective metaphor that you can swim in it.

What makes this show so engrossing is the plot, full of tension and drama on every page despite being an old story that’s played out a thousand times in New York City for decades—maybe even for centuries, with a few adjustments for period. Claire moves in with Mary Ellen (Stacey Weckstein), the epitome of boredom, who practically hands her over to her long-time frenemy Deborah (Whitney Harris) who is “full of opinions.” Deborah and Mary Ellen eventually direct Claire into a relationship with Blake (Derek Stratton), who burns love instead of squandering it. Years later, David (Michael Tyler) comes into the picture to explain that “in the whole wide universe, there’s nothing more sacred than daily life”— one of many one-line insights peppered throughout the dialogue.

To be honest, we had a couple of issues with the production that made us think twice about giving it five stars: firstly, there are at times difficulties hearing the dialogue (especially Claire) that could probably be overcome with microphones; and secondly, a set of video projections near the end of the second act conflict with the live action instead of supplementing it. Neither of those detractions were ultimately enough to drop our rating, although without them, we’d have given this show an extra star if the scale could be pushed that far—yes, that’s how much we enjoyed it! So check out Chatter during its run at The Tank, then come back here and let us know what you think of it. Whether you agree that this is experimental theater at its finest or didn’t get into it as much as we did, your reviews help others decide whether they should attend, and your ratings help us help you find future performances you’re sure to love!

4

Andrew Andrews attended Chatter at The Tank in New York on Saturday, July 7, 2018 @ 12:34pm to write this review.

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