Monday, August 29, 2016

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL confounds @ convergence continuum

Christopher Johnston is the coordinator of “The Playwrights Gym at Dobama, co-founder of The Dark Room, a new works development workshop at CPT and the Rauschenberg New Play Reading Series for convergence-continuum.”  His script, Selfies at the Clown Motel, is presently being staged at con-con.

Arthur Miller wrote plays centering on the philosophical concept of “is this the best way to live?”  Tennessee Williams, often using his own life, tells of his mother and sister as the basis for his scripts, women who found themselves in societies which they didn’t understand and whose inhabitants didn’t understand the women.  William Inge looked at the darkness in life, those events in the hidden corners that challenged his characters.

It is not apparent what Christopher Johnston uses as the fulcrum for his plays.  He states in his program notes of Selfies that it is a “rendezvous of two lost and lonely souls.”  So???

The play opens with a man and woman having sex.  Each apparently reaches satisfaction, there is a scream, and it becomes apparent that the male has died, with no apparent follow-up or latter plot reference to the event.

We become aware that the woman’s family owns the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, she is a wire-walking clown, is having an affair with a motorcycle-riding married man who has abandoned his family, has a mother (Agnes) and brother  (Skar) who are psychotic, that she probably had an affair with her brother, well, he’s not exactly her brother, they appear to have the same mother but different fathers, had an abortion, her older “lover” comes and goes, there are scenes of male nudity, S & M, expelling of gas, discussions of casual sex, orgasms, and . . . 

There actually is a Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada.  It is a small place that is noted for its decorative array of stuffed, mechanical, sculptures and paintings of clowns.  A Google search reveals that there are supposedly over 600 “collectable” clowns or facsimiles on the premises.

Selfies is a convoluted tale of perversion and a dysfunctional family, with little obvious purpose. 

The show’s saving grace are the two outstanding performances by the athletic, beautiful Leah Smith (Chloe), as the clown, and John Busser (Rob) as her older lover.  Both nicely texture their characterizations and create a duo of frustrated, rudderless people, who have little purpose in their lives.

The use of clowns to reset scenes is clever, but over done.  How many times can the circus performers arrange and rearrange the bedspread and pillows before the effect becomes worn out?

The title of the play comes from a continuous taking of smart phone pictures which appear on a screen imbedded into one of the walls of the set.

Capsule Judgement:  Selfies at the Clown Motel is a difficult play to sit through.  It’s lack of focus, purpose, even with several outstanding performances, leaves little to recommend it.

SELFIES AT THE CLOWN MOTEL runs through September 17 2016 at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to

convergence-continuum’s next show is  Like I Say, Len Jenkin’s comic play with stories within stories, weird puppet shows, and an Alpine Zombie resort, running from October 14-November 5, 2016.