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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper


Or: Pushing Buttons (not all of which work)

In creating Buzzer, Tracy Scott Wilson has penned a superbly nuanced and thoughtful portrait of privilege in america and the fear that seeps from it, while never forgetting that she is telling a story before all things; a funny, uncomfortable, squirm engendering story. Director Jessica Thebus has eagerly wrangled her audience to press as close as they can to the action and has done a very serviceable job of creating epics in silences and glances, though her audience-members-on-stage experiment, pitched toward creating a realistic New York Apartment ethos (where we are a legion of flies on every wall) detracts from the enjoyment when the household appliances begin to fly into the viewers lap.

Jackson (Eric Lynch) a young black man of society has just bought a new apartment in the old ghetto where he grew up and has moved in with his acute, idealistic, and very white girlfriend Suzy (Lee Stark) in attempt to gentrify the streets he once ran along. Their plans for making a family, and getting in on the ground floor when the neighborhood flips are hobbled by the sudden arrival of Jackson’s school friend Don (Shane Kenyon). A recovering addict Don hopes to remora himself to his friends family in order find some stability and a chance to pay back Jackson and Suzy for all the, unwilling, help they have provided. What would be a wacky sit-com takes a dark turn as the violent legacy of the neighborhood seeps up through the hard wood floors and carefully balanced collective is shattered by affairs of the heart and associated organs.

Wilson has done a spectacular job in crafting a tense well cut diamond of a conflict, laced with little facets of humor (the french lesson is a particularly devious shtick) and never letting diamond lens turn the play into a morality lesson. Her even handed justice is dispensed by three poised and tactically versatile actors. Jackson can come across a little distant, his speech punctuated and slow, too reasoned too be human. This dissatisfaction melts when you realize that Lynch is playing a long game, showing us the phone slave Jackson who has had to fight every day to prove himself worthy of his society, ever chained to his mobile, juggling multiple conversations, multiple expectations.

Only when begins to unspool himself, and let down his walls for his friend and lover do we how smart Lynch has played us, and by the hight of the second act, that reasonable thing; that’s not a problem anymore. Stark, in contrast, bears her soul for us to see. Her performance of Suzy is all about the intercepted telepathic message, the word bitten back, the swallowing of pain and fear and frustration. Starks turmoil is so infectiously worrisome that you want to slide a slice of cake or a martini or a warm blanket across the stage from your seat just so the poor dear can have something to focus on, to relieve her stresses and find some measure of piece. But in between these two well crafted performance, Kenyon chisels out a truly hat-doffing example of discombobulation and dissolution. Working off of Wilson’s spattered dialog for Don Kenyon pulls disjointed phrases from his mouth with the grace of magician disgorging knotted handkerchiefs. A man of divided attention and divided loyalties Don is completely out of his depth and, though, his actor is completely in his element, Don juggles our affections and disgust with all the skill it takes to make the great effort look effortless.

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