Site-Specific theatre productions are all the rage now, and in a city like New York where every conceivable set already exists in real life it’s really just a matter of finding the perfect spot for your play to unfold.
It Is Done written by Alex Goldberg happens to take place in a bar, but it’s also being produced in a bar; The Mean Fiddler Bar & Grill located in the heart of the theatre district just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the Great White Way. Still, it’s a sure bet that even the patrons dining right above in the main room have no idea there’s such wicked goings-on underfoot in the lower level.
The set up is perfect, and upon entering you can’t help but think that this bar already looks like a staged set. Ease back and begin to eat and drink (that is, if you come at the suggested time, which is one hour before showtime) and you get to wear a personal groove in the seat while enjoying the It Is Done menu and knocking back your free drink (beer and wine) and soaking in the atmosphere. This is no Tony and Tina’s Wedding, however … once the show starts there is a lot of action going on around the bar, but the audience has no part in it. For all intents and purposes you all might as well be ghosts.
Which is fitting, given the spooky nature of It Is Done. Despite the full bar there is a certain desolation that cloaks this place once the show gets underway; a lone bartender, Hank (Matt Kalman) bides his time behind the bar with not much else to do except read porn (avidly), ignore the phone calls from his ex-wife (pointedly) and welcome the one lone stranger who is blown into the bar by the dust storm that’s been kicking up outside.
“You’re not from around these parts” Hank notes. It’s easy to tell … no one’s from “around here” he explains. They’re 90 miles from anything in any direction, making this both a bastion of hope as well as an outpost for the hopeless. Therefore it’s the perfect place for the stranger, Jonas (Ean Sheehy) to settle in and have a drink or two till the storm dies down and he can be back on his way to wherever it is he’s going.
Into this cozy setup another stranger is blown. Only this one is a very attractive woman. We can call her Ruby (Catia Ojeda). She’s even more obviously not from around here … and seems even more annoyed at having to while away her time in the bar until a tow truck can come rescue her. Well, she’s annoyed at first. Until she begins to find an amusing way to pass the time … by trying to melt the icy exterior of the stranger who calls himself Jonas and “doesn’t like conversation”. She rebuffs the attentions (salacious) of Hank (who she pointedly insists on addressing as “BARKEEP!”) and as Hank skulks off to the back room to do whatever it is he does she attempts to engage Jonas in conversation.
Divertive at first, Jonas does manage to give up certain details. In a type of tit-for-tat game Ruby offers up some personal information of her own. Or so it seems. And so, eventually, in this desolate bar with no one around but this total stranger who (she insists) he will probably never see after this night Jonas reveals the secret that has him on the run.
From here the tale turns from eerie thriller to supernatural horror and to give any more away would be to spoil both the plot as well as the enjoyment of the piece. Suffice it to say, there’s a reason these folks are all together this terrible night … and it ain’t pretty.
Tom Wojtunik’s direction is fabulous; he uses the space to its utmost advantage. There are even some neat little tricks built into the existing room, such as a number of reflective surfaces, which allow the audience to see the faces of the actors regardless of their seat. This gives the actors free range of the performance space while keeping the audience from having to whip their necks around constanly in order to keep tabs on the action.
Wojtunik also does a great job in creating the mood of the piece; again – despite the crowded room there’s a real feeling of emptiness and desolation that simply can’t be explained but is very well executed. Even though we all know we’re all there, these three are as alone as they appear to be.
The actors all come through with strong performances. Matt Kalman as Hank is perfect as the libidinous average joe who doesn’t work too hard, doesn’t think too much and doesn’t care about your story as long as you’re paying. Ean Sheehy’s Jonas telegraphs his tension and nervous energy in every awkward angle. His lanky frame almost bends in upon itself in an effort to appear as unremarkable as possible in order to keep you from noticing him.
Finally Ruby is perhaps the most intersting character to examine. At first Catia Ojeda’s style could be taken as bit too smarmy, full of her self, too pat, too grandiose. However when Ruby’s true nature is revealed it all makes perfect sense and you realize that she couldn’t have been any other way. Ojeda does a fantastic job of keeping the camp out of her character; there is a moment — several in fact — when some scenes could chew the scenery, but Ms. Ojeda commands her lines with power and authority. If the audience is laughing it’s becuase they’re meant to. And there are moments when she is downright terrifying.
It Is Done is like a good Masters Of Horror episode taken from the small screen and moved to the real world. But putting the audience in the midst of the action the creepienss factor is upped, the tension is tightend and the payoff is higher. Plus, after the show you get to stick around and finish your beer right there on the set. What could be better?
If you’re looking for something differernt, you’ll find it here. If you’re looking for a good night of theatre with a twist – this is it. Either way, It Is Done gets it done.
~~~Site-Specific Dark Thriller It is Done Written by Alex Goldberg, Directed by Tom Wojtunik
.The Mean Fiddler Bar & Grill 66 West 47 Street between Eight Ave and Broadway November 8 through December 5, 2011 Performances Schedule: Monday and Tuesday at 7:30PM (House opens at 6:30PM)
.Click Here to purchase tickets Tickets are $30 – including one drink For more information visit www.ItIsDoneThePlay.com