Local Arts Reviews

tempOdyssey: The Long Voyage Home

The Off Center, through June 28

Running Time: 2 hrs, 15 min

First, the good news: Dan Dietz has written an amazing play. Following a temporary office worker named Genny through her first and only day in a new office, Dietz jumps back and forth in time and from one coast (Atlanta) to another (Seattle -- the anti-Atlanta), touching on themes of work, family, the virtual reality of the Internet, and our relationships to death, time, and the market economy. (I used to think that all plays were about sex and death -- thanks to Dietz, I now think all plays are about sex, death, and work.) One of Dietz's concerns seems to be the way we use language both to explicate and evade. His characters often speak in alliterative, frighteningly beautiful, poetic dialogue and then, suddenly, switch to monosyllabic one-liners that sting with comic perception.

More good news: Director Jason Neulander has an amazingly talented cast for this world premiere. Joey Hood's first act as Jim, a permanent male temp, is so relaxed and natural, it looks more like life than acting; Lowell Bartholomee, while barely moving a muscle, elicits raucous laughter as a scientist explaining black holes; Shannon Grounds matches Bartholomee in the role of a temp guru; and Douglas Taylor gives the most controlled, disciplined, specific performance I've seen him deliver as Genny's Deep South chicken-farmer father. Neulander gets some fine work from his designers as well, particularly from set designer Chase Staggs, who constructs a clever and oppressive office building from little more than filing cabinets and an elevator.

Here's the bad news: By the time it ended, I was relieved, and so, it seemed, was the majority of the opening-night audience. Through much of the first act, everyone laughed heartily, and during Taylor's tour de force scene, which began the second act, everyone was absolutely still -- riveted. But you know an audience wants to get out of a theatre if they begin to stare at the floor, the ceiling, one another, anywhere but the stage, or if they stretch and rub their necks and constantly shift in their seats, as this audience did for at least the last 40 minutes of the play.

For a long time now, Salvage Vanguard Theater's rallying cry has been "I hate theatre." This statement, of course, is filled with pretension, implying that all theatre (all theatre that isn't my theatre) isn't any good. If this is your motto, you had best do something new and challenging with every production. With tempOdyssey, Dietz is doing something new and challenging, but that doesn't necessarily mean Salvage Vanguard is. Most of the second act is interminable. It's possible that this is a fault of Dietz's writing, but given much of the rest of the play, I don't think that's it. I think the second act is interminable because most of it is just so damn slow, and that's on director Neulander. I hate theatre, too, especially when actors drop every cue in a scene, do little for extended periods except shout, yell, and scream dialogue, go so fast that I can't understand what they're saying, or go so slow that I want to do nothing but go home and go to bed. While I admired tempOdyssey for its aspirations, I was glad when the voyage was over.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
All the Way
All the Way
In Zach Theatre's staging of this epic political drama about LBJ, the fight for civil rights feels particularly urgent

Robert Faires, May 1, 2015

Random Acts of Magic
Random Acts of Magic
The 2015 batch of Out of Ink 10-minute plays is a satisfying buffet of silliness and thoughtfulness

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 1, 2015

More by Barry Pineo
Arts Review
Guest by Courtesy
Etiquette takes a pratfall in this comic battle for control between cousins

Nov. 11, 2011

Arts Review
The B. Beaver Animation
The Rude Mechs' re-creation of the Mabou Mines work is necessary but strange

Nov. 4, 2011


tempOdyssey, Dan Dietz, Jason Neulander, Joey Hood, Lowell Bartholomee, Shannon Grounds, Douglas Taylor, Chase Staggs

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle