Exposed brick walls, dark aged wood, and small cluttered corridors make the Boy Scout room at JUNK (at Shiloh Baptist Church) the perfect place to stage a performance that disrupts people’s comfort levels. In this cast-aside space, audience members are shuttled around a maze of rooms and hallways by performer Tom Lombardi. He leads the audience up to “the waiting room,” where audience members are free to poke around and interact with the characters before going to “trial,” in the main room. It is here that Found Theater Company’s NOTHING TO SEE HERE really begins.
At times, the play feels like a bad dream, at others like an epiphany; at times confusion seems the primary sensation clouding the experience. There is no real narrative to the performance, but its themes of anti-political chaos come through loud and clear.
Performer Sean Lally designed NOTHING TO SEE HERE and co-directed with fellow actors, Adrienne Hertler, Steph Iozzia, and Joe Palinsky. Their play focuses on seven themes, which included Complicity, Forgiveness, and Collectivity. Alternately, each actor sheds light on one theme while the others act it out.
At different points, the performers run around the room screaming, speak charged dialogues, and sing haunting melodies (designed by musical director Kevin O’Halloran), all in an attempt to make audience members reflect on difficult questions. In one section, Palinsky leads an infomercial-like scene centered around Indebtedness with appropriately disturbing enthusiasm, while Iozzia looks on with uncertain discomfort. In another, Joe Wozniak successfully enacts a creepy puppet show centered around Resistance with disturbing energy. The scenes are fast, surreal, and thoughtful; in some I have no idea what is happening at all.
Standout performers included Emily R. Johnson, who fuses her surprising and powerful stage presence as she looks out over the action to get across a sense of authority, power, and discipline, and Iozzia, who startles and captivates with her pure vocals.
The location maps onto the performance so perfectly, it feels as though the show were written specifically for it—of course, Lombardi’s detailed sets play a major role in shaping the experience. Additionally, the lighting by Will Jonez not only aids the audience to follow the show, buthelps get across each of the play’s seven themes. However, even with these aids, the show goes by in a blur of quick dialogue, confusing speeches, and outlandish experiences.
Confusion overcame me as I left the theater. What had just happened? Perhaps the show attempts to cover too much and might have been more effective had it explored fewer topics. All the same, I found myself intrigued and wished I could see it again in an attempt to make sense of it all.
[Found Theater Company at JUNK, 2040 Christian Street] April 14-May 1, 2016; foundtheatercompany.com.