BWW Reviews: Glass Mind Theatre's WELCOME TO THE WHITE ROOM Ushers A Season Of Unopened Theater
This season, Glass Mind is producing works that have never before seen the light of stage. This is a noble, perhaps edgy, seriously arty endeavour. It could go horribly, horribly wrong.
WELCOME TO THE WHITE ROOM, presented in Gallery 788, an upstairs art gallery in Hampden (caveat: erotic art on display through November 29, which does not distract from seeing the show, but individual pieces range from evocative to disturbing; further caveat: the gallery is accessible only by climbing the stairs -not quite the stairs of Theatre Project, but significant), however, does not go horribly wrong. It succeeds quirkily. It may not be for everyone. If you hate Beckett, detest Durang and shudder at Stoppard, stop reading now and find something else to do. This show will not be your cup of tea.
Still with me? Ah, good. Back to Beckett. Not, I admit, one of my personal favorites, but mixed with Stoppard - including the occasional echo of "...a band... I thought I heard a band..."- and accompanied by some Durang thrown in towards the end, I liked it just fine. Interesting premise which refused to reveal itself until the final act- no spoilers here, darlings- snappy dialogue, smooth transitions, subtle character differentiations and a running joke about boys and directions. Towards the end of Part 3, The Package That Came Through The Slot In The Door Of The White Room, one of the characters wonders, "What are we doing?" and the audience may be tempted to ask, "Yes, what are we doing?" to which I will answer, be patient, darlings. Enjoy the suspense. That's it for Trish Harnetiaux's brave and clever script.
Production values are surprisingly high for what is in essence a homeless theatre company. Glass Mind is a hobo, a transient, a vagabond, setting up shop in Kindhearted Venues. A lighting schematic comprised of clip-on floods attached to the aluminum grid of the suspended ceiling does an effective job of lighting, blacking out, and highlighting as required. There are helpful scene heading projections on the white screen backdrop that, along with a lecture podium, is the entire set for this pared-down, surrealistic show. The "booth" is a 6' banquet table with a person and two laptops.The seats are the PTA folding variety, minus even the pretence of a cushion.
Costumes are off the rack (or perhaps out of the actors' closets- each outfit was not only character appropriate but fit extremely well) and illustrative without being distractive. Sound cues are extant but subtle, a good thing considering the tight space and intimate nature of the show. Props were simple, even the ones that represented currently un-invented items.
The sparse Sunday crowd failed entirely to shuffle, cough, shift positions or otherwise show signs of being something other than completely engaged. The surreality plus quick dialogue may not be precisely edge-of your seat heart-thumping drama, but it does require focus in order to keep up, director Chris Cotterman's pacing being so rapid that you realize you might miss something important unwrapping a stick of gum. There is some action that takes place on the floor which makes the sequence unviewable to everyone other than the first (and perhaps second) row, but the actors are vocally proficient enough to make their invisibility a minor annoyance rather than a devastating interruption. In fact, each cast member is believable, articulate and easy to understand
It's a short show, performed without intermission, running almost precisely one hour. Do arrive early, as parking in Hampden is neither plentiful nor convenient. If you go early-early, The Golden West Cafe, right across the street on The Avenue (1105 West 36th Street), has delicious fried Brussels sprouts, Frito pie and sweet potato fries on their appetizer menu. Fans of the surreal, do please make an evening or afternoon of it and treat yourselves to WELCOME TO THE WHITE ROOM.
Glass Minds' next presentation, something written especially for Glass Mind Theatre by playwright Joshua Conkel, is described as "a fully-produced workshop: fresh new work guaranteed to be playful, funny, poignant, and with a good dose of weird," at present entitled UNTITLED, suggesting that it has yet to be completed, with similarly nebulous run dates of "three weekends in March 2015" You may have seen Conkel's first show in Baltimore, MILKMILKLEMONADE, at Single Carrot Theater in 2012.
The remaining shows of WELCOME TO THE WHITE ROOM are:
Friday, 12/5 at 8pm; Sunday, 12/7 at 2pm
Saturday, 12/13 at 8pm; Sunday, 12/14 at 4pm
at Gallery 788, 3602 Hickory Ave, Baltimore, MD 21211
For tickets to WELCOME TO THE WHITE ROOM, visit https://gmt.tixato.com/buy/welcome-to-the-white-room.
More information at http://www.glassmindtheatre.com/season/welcome-to-the-white-room/.
Photo courtesy of Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.