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New Georges' experiment in "exploded view" theater is more of an implosion.

Theater Review (NYC): ‘How to Get Into Buildings’ by Trish Harnetiaux

Kristine Haruna Lee and Stephanie Weeks in 'How to Get Into Buildings.' Photo by Jessica Osber
Kristine Haruna Lee and Stephanie Weeks in ‘How to Get Into Buildings.’ Photo by Jessica Osber

How to Get Into Buildings, presented by New Georges at The Brick in Williamsburg, attempts a deconstruction of theatrical conventions – an “exploded view,” as playwright Trish Harnetiaux describes it, like a diagram you might see on instructions for assembling a piece of furniture or a bicycle. Intentionally, it dispenses with continuity. Unfortunately, it lacks a compelling story to support the experiment.

The fates of two pairs of protagonists literally collide in a traffic mishap involving a truck loaded with fish and other food bound for local restaurants. Nick (Mike Iveson) and Daphne (Stephanie Weeks) bicker over a meal at one of those establishments, where the fish dish is, sadly, not on offer. Meanwhile, painfully nice but troubled Lucy (Kristine Haruna Lee) and awkward but impassioned Roger (Jacob A. Ware) meet while attending different events at a convention center. Scenes proceed in non-chronological order, and while the chronology becomes mostly clear, the connection between the separate stories never quite does.

And that’s in spite of the overuse of a kind of cheating device. Ethan (Jess Barbagallo), a writer who is also the waiter in the restaurant (or are they two different characters? I wasn’t sure), has written a book called The Car Accident which contains the plot of the very play we’re seeing. At various times he steps into a spotlight and reads long narrative passages describing what’s happening in the minds and relationships of the characters. Despite Barbagallo’s valiant efforts to make his character(s) interesting and entertaining, these segments drag the action down.

Through his committed efforts and those of the rest of the talented cast, the production does intermittently entertain. There are quite a few good laughs, some startling moments, and dramatically effective lighting (Josh Smith) and sound (Chris Giarmo).

But fundamentally there’s just not enough for the cast – or for the director, an obviously hard-working and creative-minded Katherine Brook – to work with. The play doesn’t work as narrative or as collage, and as experiment it succeeds sporadically at best. Towards the end, the story “explodes” further into absurdist metafiction, so it grows less troubling that things aren’t making sense. Thus the later scenes are more impactful – Roger’s comically hyperactive PowerPoint presentation, Daphne’s blossoming with the help of a gun, the mystifying merging of earlier scenes into later ones. It begins to feel like things are wrapping up, coming together – an illusion, but a nice one in the moment.

How to Get Into Buildings runs through Dec. 19, 2015 at The Brick. Tickets are available online or by calling 866-811-4111.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases in various genres. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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