by Julia Lee Barclay · January 11, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #28 Julia Lee Barclay-Morton looks at Muazzez playing at the Chocolate Factory Mac Wellman's play Muazzez (which is also a short story) is performed beautifully by Steve Mellor, who is credited in the program with Wellman as a co-creator of this show. His embodiment of the protagonist "an abandoned cigar factory or ACF" is at turns hilarious and sad, a kind of absurdist tragicomedy in which he, Mellor, is always present. He sits behind a table with the text in front of him, alternately speaking to us directly or reading, the journey of the actor with a text embodying an abandoned building within the walls of the Chocolate Factory's white painted bricks, exposed and bright, being what we are watching. With simple yet precise hand and facial gestures, along with a few strategic audience interactions, he tells his sorry tale of excavating the ground beneath him with his crow-like talon (this is Mac Wellman after all and Muazzez is an asteroid - sort of), not realizing that of course in the end - spoiler alert - his 'steadfastness' will be undermined by this very excavation.
This strange tale is oddly moving even in its absurdity. The loneliness of Mellor on stage seems palpable, and we end up believing in some odd way that indeed he is an abandoned cigar factory. However, the verbal gymnastics Wellman deploys makes the whole tale a very funny-sad philosophical journey. The lines come far too quickly to quote many of them in full, but "signification beyond signposts" stood out as the best description of the writing and the overall performance itself. The struggle between the 'steadfastness' of the abandoned cigar factories (yes there is more than one) and the unpredictability of the 'bumps' that the ACFs so loathe provides the primary poles of the story as it unfolds.
The play in Muazzez between realities in words and performance is subtle but satisfying, making clear how our efforts to order our world are both what makes us human and yet undermines our very foundation, when these efforts prove ultimately futile, as they always do.
Finally, all acting teachers should send their students to see Mellor's performance to show them how it's done.