The Rainbow Machine
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Robi Polgar, Fri., April 19, 2002
The Rainbow Machine: A Deluge of WordsBlue Theater,
through April 20
Running Time: 2 hrs
There is a line, early in this Rm 120 theatre production, where the disaffected Ray tells his girlfriend Maddy that intellectuals feel an uncontrollable need to talk and talk, to fill the air with unnecessary words. Much of Rick Ehrstin's play feels rather bloated in a similar way; there is so much talking and talking by Ray and Maddy -- a modern, intellectual, dysfunctional-to-the-point-of-estrangement couple -- that is so unnecessary. The writing has shades of Beckett and Albee, but lacks the narrative cohesion or compelling social imperative of either. Ultimately, The Rainbow Machine is a tale of a man and a woman who simply cannot communicate, but this idea is drowned in a deluge of words and much tangential, quasi-absurdist schtick. Device replaces the organic as Ray and Maddy go on and on -- sometimes they just aren't human, or at least, they seem to have lost touch with their humanity as well as with each other. Watching the play, you get the feeling that it was great fun to work on, to figure out, to get at all the references and ideas and internal jokes. From the seats, however, it is inconsistently entertaining at best.
That by play's end it is clear that Ray and Maddy want to reach out to each other with their words, and more, is a credit to Timothy J. Verret and Ann Taylor, the two actors playing Ray and Maddy, and to director Greg Romero, who have committed so wholly to the script, characters, and setting. From the moment the audience enters the space, anyone who went to college will be in largely familiar territory. The theatre has been transformed into a typical squalidly furnished-to-the-gills pad of the life-term student, complete with book-strewn coffeetable, book-stack end table, recliner chair and wrecked sofa, Casio keyboard and upright drum, refrigerator with indeterminate contents, and various computers, toys, and stuffed animals. It's in this pack-rat world that Ray and Maddy carry on their conversation, their war of words, ceaselessly. Their trouble is they cannot get through to each other. They choose the wrong things to say, they hear things the wrong way, they push each other's buttons, they allow the ubiquitous and absurdly metaphoric telephones that are constantly ringing to interrupt them no matter how close they may be to making real contact. One of the few times the couple appears at ease -- and more natural and sympathetic -- is when neighbor Sean barges in. Jason Lehmberg plays Sean with comedic pizzazz and plenty of energy, and he even finds some unexpected depth in this tertiary role.
Rm 120 theatre is evidently a smart, young, and good-natured company, willing to invest completely in its work and quite keen to share it. Such generosity of spirit, married to hard work and bold choices, makes the group a welcome part of the local theatre scene. With this outing it has given playwright Ehrstin a decent run for his work, even with its shortcomings.