The Salvage Vanguard Theater world premiere of Ryan Pavelchik's 'Static' seats 12 viewers in a hotel room with a man desperately seeking to find himself
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., April 14, 2006
Woodward Inn, through May 12
Running Time: 1 hr, 15 min
An interesting word, "static." It can be defined as both utter stillness and chaotic movement, and it's an apt title for Ryan Pavelchik's play, given its world premiere here by Salvage Vanguard Theater. The story is set in a hotel room or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that director Jason Neulander has chosen to stage it in a room at the Woodward Hotel in Austin. Due to space limitations, only 12 audience members are admitted to each performance, and Neulander gathers them together in the lobby and escorts them to the fifth floor, seating them on one side of the room and leaving them in silence. In the bed is a man wearing a black wool hat, covers pulled up to his chin, lying absolutely still. Eventually he opens his eyes, sits up, and gets out of bed. He discovers that one of the sheets has an outline of the continental United States on it, and he hangs it on a wall. He unplugs the phone from its socket, plugs it into his navel, and calls his mother. He performs cunnilingus on a bottle of tequila. He finds a bottle of water, guzzles it, and vomits into a trash can. He crams several pieces of white bread at once into his mouth and almost chokes. When he speaks, he most often speaks of identity and loss, especially the loss of a woman whom he loved. At various points, the television comes on, complementing the things he talks about. The same thing happens with the clock radio; in fact, he has vocal exchanges with the radio, which seems to be observing everything he does.
His name is Josh, and he's played by actor Brent Werzner as a man desperately seeking to find himself, and while I don't think I'm reading too much into it by writing that, reading into the play is something I want to avoid. As human beings, we tend to look for order in things, but order is not what this production, despite its impressively precise technical accomplishment, is about. Quite the opposite, I believe. While Pavelchik undoubtedly had a story in mind when he wrote it, the play's ultimate aim, and one that Neulander and his crew obviously support, is to offer a series of impressions meant to have an emotional rather than a narrative impact. The staging is often chaotic, with Werzner doing one thing while the television shows another and the radio talks, but no matter the situation, while my initial impulse was to discern meaning, I eventually quashed that and instead attempted to allow the production to wash over me. Despite the extreme nature of much of the action, at no point did I ever feel in danger. Frightened, yes. Confused, most certainly. Repulsed, without question. But Werzner is an engaging actor with a free and open instrument, and Pavelchik's script allows him to visit places of which many actors only dream.
Don't go expecting a story in the usual sense of the word. There is, however, a truly moving resolution, and this despite our almost total immersion in one of the deepest mysteries of all the mystery of the human heart.