Review: In "Occasionally Nothing," an Absurdist New Order
Written by Natalie Menna
Directed by Ivette Dumeng
Presented by Theater for the New City
155 1st Ave., Manhattan, NYC
April 28-May 15, 2022
|L to R: Mike Roche, Sean Hoagland. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.|
By the time that the play opens, Clay (Sean Hoagland), a British expat punk, and his uncle Harry (Mike Roche) have been holed up in an abandoned church for months (perhaps, anyway–time, like other perceptions and memories, has grown a little fuzzy for the characters), along with Harry's wife, Luella (Holly O'Brien). Clay is the only one to periodically venture outside, though he may be misremembering or lying about what he has seen there, including whether there are still other people, and Luella is having some trouble processing what has happened to the world, believing, on top of a protective forgetfulness, that she is a Rockette and, more problematically for the trio, that she is not married to Harry. References to banned words and revolution, an elected American authoritarian, and widening international conflict give the audience a sense of the path to this particular apocalyptic outcome, and the characters' interactions play out, meaningfully, beneath both a tattered American flag and a large wooden cross. But the play also transcends a particular political moment. In the opening scene, for example, Clay and Harry try to hash out whether nothing can be something, an opportunity for some funny, rapid-fire play with language but also a valid philosophical question about the presence of absence and a debate the final conclusion of which–sometimes–gestures to a radical contingency in both language and being. When Clay thinks he hears something, the something might be the sound of a voice or of an explosion. Maybe they can be equivalent. Sometimes.
L to R: Mike Roche, Holly O'Brien, Sean Hoagland. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
|L to R: Mike Roche, Holly O'Brien, Sean Hoagland. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.|
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards