Writer: Paul Zimet
Director: Paul Zimet
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The Talking Band brings Paul Zimet’s newest play, The City of No Illusions, to the downstairs space at La MaMa for the month of February. Addressing the timely issues of drug abuse, immigration, and divisiveness, the play has opportunities to resonate and elicit deep questioning from the audience that largely go unseized.
Against a backdrop of lovely live music, a rather predictable kitchen-sink-style realist plot unfolds with playwright/director Zimet’s blocking favoring a presentational style that betrays the potential for intimacy these characters have within the plot. There is also an odd stylistic choice that is rather distracting; each time a character enters or exits through a door, there is a sound element that sounds like a sharp intake of breath as the person stylistically trip/steps into the room. Perhaps this is an allegorical element, but if it is, this reviewer cannot pinpoint its meaning or intent. Throughout City of No Illusions, it feels as though the issues – and they are certainly important issues, make no mistake – supersede character development. Moments are present that are full of stunning beauty and depth, with visceral groundedness and connection, particularly one scene between Saad (Eden Zane) and Gabriela (Veraalba Santa) pondering the meaning and understanding of true happiness. In glimmers such as these, the play reveals its true potential.
The need for human connection and seeing beyond differences is a driving force of this play, and the moments that achieve it play out beautifully. There is ample charm and well-mined humor in some of the funeral home scenes, and it is clear there is a lot of love and intentionality behind the production. That takes the play a long way, but ultimately the execution falls a bit flat. As the characters in the play would likely agree, intent and energy are wonderful things, but they can only take one so far.
Runs until 24 February 2019 | Image: Suzanne Opton