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The Journey


The Journey


                     By Eugene  Paul


If you haven’t been to The Tank in  a while you’ll notice several improvements in signage which could enable you to navigate the unchanged  cramped  premises – you’re definitely Off Off Broadway – maybe Off Off Off.

Which, inevitably has an impact on the plays presented.  Too frequently I’ve found the playscript to be better than the actual performance. Which is why  playwright Joshua Crone starts off with at least one hand tied behind his back:  he sets his play in Malibu, in the very well to do Lieberman  family home. But here we are in a  shabbily overused black box with nothing to aid us in transition.  Perhaps the ayahuasca ceremony of the play?


Ayahuasca, a traditional  “medicine” used in brew form among scattered Andean churches and indigenous groups for purging purposes – ya gotta get rid of those intestinal worms – also brings on a whole range of psychotic experiences lending heightened sensations of delight ,or possibly terror, which last several hours, depending on the brew’s strength. It’s been used  for millennia.



However, we are in deepest, lushest Malibu, and Shanti Marsh (Jessica Van Nael), shaman to the Lieberman family, thanks to generous pater familias Saul (Jeffrey Grover) does not offer brewed ayahuasca to her congregants, she prefers ayahuascan infused heart shaped chocolates wrapped in gold foil.  And so do they.  At least, so does  smiley, with-it Saul.  The rest of them, his young daughters Madison (Sami Petrucci) and Parker (Katie Housley) and their mother, Judy (Stephanie Roseman), a Pilates instructor,  some friends, plus, Nick (Jordan Theodore) who wants to marry daughter Luna (Kelsey Susino), all being introduced to the experience.


And one of them has brought his dog named Tom Petty, (Thoeger Hansen), named for, of course, their free wheeling neighbor in Malibu, the illustrious Tom Petty, dead of an overdose. Mixed signals, there. Very mixed: the dog, when alone and standing in his six foot six shaggy dog suit, talks to us. After having snaffled those very expensive chocolates.  Poops. Woofs. Playwright/Director Crone also employs most of the Tank’s lighting devices for scenic and other effect to little avail in considered attempts reaching out for atmosphere.


 Saul’s sister Gloria (Desiree Baxter) and her soon to be husband Frankie (Marco Greco) drop in unexpectedly to share in the regular Friday night Shabbos festivities. With misgivings about the ayahuasca ceremony.   Frankie has a problem: should he not only convert but do so entirely? Which would entail losing his foreskin? Italians don’t do ayahuasca but what the hell. Ya gotta be with it. Saul, in an aside, inveigles Brad (Lief Riddell) Shanti’s partner, into shelling out some more chocolates for an additional five hundred so everybody can share in the fun.


Playwright Crone’s diligence in laying out his cast of characters is nearly complete after a series of small scenes, persisting even though any dramatic effect has long been lost along the way, but we are in showcase mode:  expect it. (Or, rather, don’t.  Before the show, we’ve picked up an inviting publication from the table full of show announcements.  It’s his, a review of reviews, spiked with several charming teasers for the show we’re about to see, The Journey. The bright, brisk, erudite cleverness of his  bio notes and those of his friends and co-workers in his handsome  first edition of “Reviews from Underground” lead to high expectations.) (Dashed.)


 In addition to not being able to persuade most of his cast to interact – or act – as well as his pros, director Crone has not been firm enough with playwright Crone in wrangling his basic problem and concomitant problems resulting: he wants his ayahuascan ceremony to constitute an easy dozen participants. Because it’s more ceremonial? In a wealthy, Orthodox Jewish family? In laid back southern California?  Demonstrating frantic reachings out from today’s technosaturated society to primitive ancient native practices?  Adapted? In heart shaped chocolates?  In gold foil?


Before the show, a Tank representative has welcomed the audience by including the bit of information that a thousand shows a year fill the Tank premises. Reaching for the joy. Think oceans of heartbreak, mountains of expectation. And depths of despair.  Tomorrow, all over again. Which may somewhat explain no street level promo for The Journey or accuracy on the Web. But isn’t it hard enough?  Ye gods.


The Journey. At the Tank, 312 West 36th Street. Tickets: $20. 212-563-6969. 90 Min. Thru Feb 23.