Somewhere between the chorus girls of yesteryear's musicals and the surreal meanderings of a French circus, is the dimension inhabited by Ken Roht's musical theater performance piece, Echo's Hammer, a world premiere at the Theatre@Boston Court in Pasadena. Written, directed and choreographed by Roht, this two-hour trifle examines love that is touched by lust.
There isn't actually a character in this play called Echo but there are hammers and not all of them are the tools you use for nails. Pon (Roht) and Deedo (Bill Celentano) are lovers and inventors. They bicker and flirt and ignore their servant, Nancy (Kristen-Lee Kelly). In the background, uncle (Jack Kandel), a Germanic cobbler sings and creates practical crafts. Pon tells Deedo he's the "constant source of my unhappiness" while Deedo asks if Pon, "Are you my inspiration?"
Pon and Deedo inhabit a workshop with wheels and hammers and assorted clutter. Above them is a goddess-like Amazement (Laura Martin) who provides Cirque du Soleil-like vocalizations?gloriously melodic yet devoid of lyrics. Upstage on opposite sides are two metal cages inhabited by another fighting couple?Cheryl (Geraldine Singer) and Frank (Don Oscar Smith).
Cheryl and Frank are a middle-aged couple dressed for breakfast and unhappiness, neither paying much attention to each other while the news tells about a world in our future with clones and other scientific disasters. From time to time, the two crawl out onto a catwalk running beneath their cages and meet in the center, playing out sleezy interactions between two randy strangers at a bar.
Below, Pon and Deedo attempt to create something wonderful?an invention to glorify themselves and a relationship that excludes Nancy. The contraption they do assemble resembles modern art and this piece is more performance art than a cohesive story with a plot.
Roht's piece invents an odd atmosphere that mixes lust, dysfunction, love, jealousy, past and present. This work isn't as wonderfully loopy as his "99 Cent Only Show" that giddily celebrated cheapness. There are moments when one is amazed, others when one is amused and others that just jar one out of one's revery.
Playwright, Director and Choreographer: Ken Roht
Cast: Ken Roht (Pon), Bill Celentano (Deedo), Laura Martin (Amazement), Kristen-Lee Kelly (Nancy), Geraldine Singer (Cheryl), Don Oscar Smith (Frank), Jack Kandel (Uncle).
Set Design: Jason Adams and Alicia Hoge
Lighting Design: Brian J. Lilienthal
Costume Design: Ann Closs-Farley
Running Time: Two hours, no intermission
Running Dates: April 21-June 4, 2005
Where: The Theatre@Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. 626-683-6883. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Sundays, 3 p.m. www.bostoncourt.org.