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Bad Penny

consists of speeches and dialogues by Mac Wellman that accrue into a theatrical poem/meditation on American life, while casting doubt on the reliability of any kind of knowledge, or judgment, about it. Thirteen characters (played by Cynthia Mance, Troy Dunn, Alisha Nichols, David E. Frank, Kenneth Rudnicki and Mariko Oka) in New York’s Central Park intersect. A painter meditates on the sky and the stars, and the vagaries of what can be known about them. A man from Montana tries to cross the park with the flat tire of his Ford Fairlane 500, because he can’t find a gas station on the East Side. A woman ruminates on a “bad penny” she picked up, and the curse it will bring. The underlying existential philosophy of the piece hovers somewhere between Camus, Sartre and Ionesco (Wellman devotes an entire chorale to a sequence of familiar clichés that pass for meaning in our culture, as Ionesco did in a number of his plays). One woman walks slowly across the back of the stage, in various attires, holding a punt as though she’s rafting. Production designer Charles Duncombe and director Frédérique Michel provide a beautiful scenic backdrop (lush hues of color, a city-park lamppost and slides of New York that slip through the seasons) and well-coordinated presentation style. They’re working with a largely young company that makes the language perfectly intelligible, but the interpretation fails to reach the depths of experience that give such meditations an emotional sense that corresponds to the philosophical one.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Aug. 1. Continues through Sept. 7, 2008


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