Trash Talk. STAGE REVIEW of “Storage Locker” by Jeff Stolzer
Review by LindaAnn LoSchiavo
When he was living in Chicago, actor Bryn Packard got hooked on a reality TV show “Storage Wars.” What was the appeal — — the discovery or the dilemma? “It was the discovery element,” he admitted. “What would be found in those shopping bags or the trunk. I binge-watched it for a while. When I heard about this play, it was a natural fit.”
Playwright Jeff Stolzer was also inspired by that program. He explained, “It’s equal parts game show, treasure hunt, and casino.” He added, “Is there treasure or is it worthless junk?”
Though the stage looks as drab, dirty, and cluttered as the city dump, tension builds from the start and never lets up. The husband (Bryn Packard) has bid $1,500 on Locker # 2051 instead of the $800 limit he and his agitated wife (Nicole Betancourt) agreed upon. Since he’s mismanaged their finances in the past, the couple disagree throughout this fast-paced black comedy but, before this can get tiresome, in walks an old man (David Crommett) who is trying his best to buy the locker from them. As he lies about his motives and the price he’ll give them, the stakes get higher. What is in there that is so valuable?
In Stolzer’s narrative there is the trace of an elegy for a past that is irretrievably lost — — a time when relatives inherited a loved one’s possessions, a process that preserved not only precious objects (i.e., an art collection or great-grandma’s silverware) but also traditions, for example, handing down a wedding gown from one generation to the next. Instead, in modern times, belongings wind up in a stranger’s warehouse until the owner dies or defaults on the rent. At that point, there will be an auction. The contents go to the highest bidder.
The married couple in “Storage Locker” have little interest in keeping the contents — — though the wife is wearing a bracelet from a previous auction, a foreshadowing that pivots the plot around to its surprise ending. Despite being unsuccessful at unloading the items from previous auctions at a profit, they harbor a frenzied hope that this gamble will pay off, will bring them a windfall. The ensemble cast is very good in bringing this desperation to life. Nicole Betancourt, armed with a queenly disdain, uses her physicality just wonderfully to convey, by turns, her testiness, moodiness, and dog-tiredness with her ineffective husband.
Julián Mesri directs with a sure hand, maximizing the claustrophobic set (festooned with black garbage bags) by his clever use of other areas of the space, such as the sound booth, and his addition of multi-media. A solid job all around.
IATI Theater developed “Storage Locker” over the past two years as part of its Cimientos play development program. Director Julián Mesri was first exposed to storage locker reality shows while in Argentina during a week-long illness and now sees the world of Reality TV as our gateway to understand absurdism in the 21st Century.
“Storage Locker” [70 minutes] runs through October 30th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM.
IATI Theater is located at 64 East 4th Street, between Bowery and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.