Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Internationalist

Convergence continuum’s THE INTERNATIONALIST is a linguistic challenge

There’s Spanish, German, Hebrew and Italian. Now there is Washburnspeak.

Much of The Internationalist, a play now in production at convergence continuum, is spoken in a language that is alien to the ear, yet has a strange familiar authenticity. Every once in a while a Yiddish, English or French word pops in making the listener assume that what is being said makes sense. Forget it. It’s author Anne Washburn’s linguistic invention. To make matters even more interesting, or frustrating, depending on your point of view, is that there are no super-titles.

The wisp of a plot centers on Lowell, an American on a business trip. We don’t know what the business is, where he is, or why he is there. In fact, by the time the play is over, depending on your imagination, you might not even know why you went to see this play.

Lowell is met at the airport by Sara, a beautiful assistant from the company he is visiting. After spending a night of supposed amour, the real adventure starts. The task is figuring out what’s going on. Is their internal robbery, international espionage, insider trading, terrorism? Who knows. As it turns out, who cares.

Originally conceived as a one-act, cc’s production is a newer two-act version which takes about one-and-a-half hours with a ten minute intermission. It matters not. The play misses out on a wonderful chance to take on the typical American who goes to foreign lands with little or no knowledge of the verbal and nonverbal customs of the area and expects the natives to adjust to the ego-centered American. Or, possibly to show the difficulty of communication. Washburn doesn’t accomplish either of those goals. If you want to see that well-developed, go to New York and see CHINGLISH.

The convergence cast is good. Especially considering that most of their lines are gibberish. It’s hard to take cues when the lines don’t make sense, or play off each other when the understanding is missing. Tom Kondilas (Lowell), Laurel Hoffman (Sara), Geoffrey Hoffman, Laura Starnik, Ray Caspio, and Robert Hawkes all try hard to make sense of what they’ve been given, and put up a valiant but unfortunately losing fight.

Capsule Judgement: Convergence-continuum’s Artistic Director Clyde Simon is noted for often picking off-the-wall plays. THE INTERATIONALIST is way off. So much so, that one can only ask what, except its obtusenesss, Simon saw in this script.