by Lynn Marie Macy · March 15, 2014
The New York City Center (55th & 7th Ave.) is not only the location of the Women’s Project Theater performance but is also central to the action of The Architecture Of Becoming. The script is a tale woven by five different playwrights (Kara Lee Corthron, Sarah Gancher, Virginia Grise, Dipika Guha and Lauren Yee) showcasing the Moroccan inspired architecture of the theater throughout several stories with central themes of characters who feel themselves on the outer fringes of New York City culture fervently wishing to “get in”, find their voices and fully inhabit their own lives.
The stories are connected by the history of the building itself - represented by the Grand Dame (fabulously brought to life by Danielle Skraastand), a spirit conjured by Siempre Norteada (Claudia Acosta), a displaced Texan and playwright who is looking for inspiration for a script she has been commissioned to write about The New York City Center (Art imitating life or life imitating art?). The stories are connected as well by an old postcard of the theater that passes through time (from 1924 to the present) from one story to the next.
The spirit of Valentino and silent films flit side by side with the ghosts of world class opera singers and musicians further rendering the characters presented before us as whisps of memories themselves. In addition to the story of the playwright we have stories about a love struck Shriner (Christopher Livingston) in the depression, a young Japanese wife during World War II (Vanessa Kai), a conflicted young poet in 1977 (Christopher Livingston), and a struggling artist named Loco Loca (Jon Norman Schneider) who happens to be the roommate of the Playwright Siempre in the present day. Everyone in the talented cast plays multiple characters with conviction, energy and enthusiasm.
The show also has three directors Elena Araoz, Lydia Fort and, Lauren Keating who keep the pace moving and who use creative and theatrical staging to make this somewhat disjointed script flow.
The design team does an especially creative job in support of the script. Costumes by Kate Fry cleverly depict each period of history and include Valantino and the Grand Dame in Arabian inspired attire. The Grand Dame’s costume in particular is an expression of the Architecture of the building itself and seems a miracle of construction that belongs in a museum for theatrical perfection. Justin Townsend’s set and lights are also key to the success of the script’s progression through imagination and history. His artistic and constructive use of numerous loud speakers seems to literally emphasize the thematic symbolism in the struggle of finding one’s voice.
The Architecture of Becoming slips by in a dreamlike 90 minutes and the artists are to be applauded for attempting such a vigorous challenge. In creating a production with an over abundance of artistic input the results are not always sufficiently focused and with so many voices in so little time we are not allowed much depth or detail in the varied stories. This leaves us with a play that is intriguing, vibrant and thought provoking, though not necessarily emotionally satisfying or moving.