Review: "Click" Sets a New Noir in a Bygone New York City

Click

Written by Drew Pisarra

Directed by James Dean Palmer

Presented by Drew Pisarra in association with The Tank

312 W 36th St., 1st Fl., Manhattan, NYC

August 30-September 9, 2023

Mohammad Saleem as Del, Shuga Ohashi as Claire, and Saman Peyman as Oona in Drew Pisarra’s Click at The Tank, directed by James Dean Palmer. Photo credit: Justin Lahue
From a soft click to a loud slam, how one replaced the phone handset could at one time act as a kind of conversational gesture on its own. Who hangs up on whom and how is one of the ways to track the shifting power dynamics in Drew Pisarra's new play, Click, which takes us back to a New York City where not only landlines but also public pay phones were ubiquitous, for what turns out to be an idiosyncratic slice of noir. Click takes some inspiration from Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 film Breathless (À Bout De Souffle), in which male protagonist and criminal hustler Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) spends a lot of the time when he is not stealing cars or bantering with and romantically pursuing New Yorker-in-Paris Patricia (Jean Seberg) trying to exert control over his life, primarily in trying to track down money he is owed, via telephone calls, and Patricia ultimately decides his fate with her own call. Click echoes Breathless in its central couple embroiled in both illicit activity and an unsettled relationship, but rather than producing an homage filled with cigarette smoking and sexual philosophizing, Click folds that inspiration into a unique, atmospheric, and surprising variation of the genre with which Godard too was playing.

When Click begins, Clare (Shuga Ohashi) and Del (Mohammed Saleem) are speaking to one another from separate pay phones that we later learn are both located in Alphabet City, arguing over what Clare will do with a mysterious but clearly important package that has been promised to an unnamed third party or parties. Clare is nervous, shifting constantly from foot to foot as if about to run away, a state that persists through much of the play until a late, significant change. Del's attitude, meanwhile, somewhat undermines his claim that "You can't use someone you love." The pay phones themselves, plastered with flyers and stickers and each topped by a light above that suggests an old-style street light, help to establish the noir atmosphere, which is intensified when a woman who goes by Oona calls Clare. Oona, played with impressively frightening self-possession by Saman Peyman, is meant to collect the package, contained in an unassuming brown paper bag, but, of course, the intended handoff does not go to plan, and Oona comes to seem more than just a bag woman, so to speak.
Saman Peyman as Oona in Drew Pisarra’s Click at The Tank, directed by James Dean Palmer. Photo credit: Noelle Salaun
The question of what precisely is in the mysterious bag (Ohashi really helps to create a sense of awe around it with her reactions to looking and, at one point, reaching inside–neither of which Clare is supposed to do) is foregrounded from the first, and it is also what takes the play into some unexpectedly metaphysical directions. It engages with love and self and human nature in ways that are atypical of noir and the slow emergence of which are one of the production's pleasures, the dawning realization that this is not precisely the kind of story that you thought you were watching. Clare's question "Who else would I be but me?," for instance, is not as simple as it seems. One key turn into the metaphysical takes place by way of a request by Oona that Clare repeat after her which memorably turns into something else by the end. In addition to the play's various broken (telephone) connections, the word "click" also evokes things "clicking into place," but while a certain amount of clarification occurs regarding that bag and who wants it and why, the show also preserves plenty of room for interpretation by the end, leaving a gratifyingly lingering sense of mystery. This intriguing ambiguity ensures that even when Click ends its call, the conversation isn't over.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards 

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