Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'Booth' Might Be for You; It Wasn't for Me

Among the beauties of small, earthy, edgy theater is that sometimes it misses the mark with me. I can't blame the failure of W. David Hancock's "Booth" to connect on the writing, Todd Ristau's direction or some marvelous acing by Linsee Lewis, Brian Turner and Chad Runyon. This one never had a chance with me and when the cast lit up two cigarettes at the same time in a small room, I couldn't stay a minute longer. The discomfort of the play was suddenly overwhelmed by the allergy to cigarette smoke (which, I have been assured, will be "substantially reduced" in future performances).

I don't know if it's fair for me to even mention "Booth," but I will because I want the adventurous among you (and those without an allergy to cigarette smoke) to see it. This one has so much going on simultaneously that it is a challenge to follow. Characters are speaking while their additional thoughts or backstory or side story is showing on a screen above their heads. You have to read that part.

Effectively, we have three thoroughly unattractive characters (a card dealer, ex-cop and pre-op transsexual hooker) occupying a restaurant booth and plotting all manner of foul deeds while talking in wretched detail about their wasted lives. Mary Poppins will not save you here.

Still, this is experimental theater and this is an experiment. I saw a lot of very real interest in the room from others attending. That's the beauty of theater, especially at this level. It has room for all of us, even though on occasion it misses for each of us. While it hits for others.

" Booth" runs March 23-April 3 with tickets running $20 at the door and $15 in advance. Students, old people and troops are $12. You can find out more here.


  1. Hey, Dan--

    Thanks for this review and I appreciate your encouraging folks to come see the show in spite of the smoke. Last night's final dress was the first time we'd done the show with the smoking as indicated in the script and we agreed that even though the characters lit up fewer times than the play actually called for, Studio Roanoke is simply too intimate a space for a production to smoke that much or that often even if the play calls for it and the ultra-realistic acting style demands it.

    Although it probably still won't fully address the issue for those with smoke allergies, the note given at the end of last night's final dress was to light up, take a puff or two and then extinguish the smokey joe so that we still get the effect but it minimizes the negative impact on audience members adversely affected.

    Again, we really do appreciate your coming, and also your positive comments in spite of your discomfort. Also, I appreciate the honesty of your comments because you are absolutely correct that Booth isn't for everyone, nor is it Studio Roanoke's mission to try to provide plays that are.

    Looking forward to seeing you in the audience for the next one!

  2. Hmmm... I'm just curious about the graphic. A hotel room key might have relevance, but wouldn't a parody of a Denny's coffee cup or menu or paper cap or coffee stained coaster provide a better connection? I remember that Denny's right on the Vegas strip, and... wait.... maybe I don't...

  3. Might think about getting a couple of those e-cigarettes. I know I saw them at a truck stop (good for 500 puffs) on the way to New York. We quit smoking by using the actual e-cig...but this might be another use for them! They really do smoke and light up at the end. It wouldn't take away from the authenticity of "coffee and cigarettes."

  4. BOOTH is daring, risky business, even for Studio Roanoke, which is no stranger to risk or extreme. It is a risk that pays off like a one-armed bandit, if you surrender to the idea that this isn’t going to be your typical, linear play with a story that follows a logical progression.

    Here, you are a voyeur of the broken pieces of many stories, many lives — some real, some imagined, some laid bare before you, some cloaked in language that seems like a labyrinth — sometimes. It’s all real enough to make you recognize yourself in places. Real enough to swear you’ve had this experience before; this BOOTH experience, eavesdropping on someone else’s conversations, unable to contain your invasion of privacy, unable to tear your attention away from what you’re overhearing, no matter how disgusting, cryptic or threatening it is. When it’s over, you feel like you’re as spent and drained as the three actors on stage. And you want to come back again and again because you know you missed so much.