The Gentrification Cycle
Reviewed by Mayank Keshaviah
Dorie Theater @ The Complex Theatres
Through June 24
A pairing of two short plays from New York-based playwright G.D. Kimble, The Gentrification Cycle looks at class differences in two very different settings that in fact have more in common than is evident on the surface.
In the first piece, Jen Tries Vacation, a bourgeois white couple, true to hipster stereotype, descends on a seedy neighborhood in search of a Zagat-rated restaurant. While Jen (Allison Youngberg) is generally uncomfortable being there, her husband Finn (Brian Wallace) sees it as an adventure into a “magical place.” They quickly come upon Reefer (Jon Gentry), a homeless-looking black man who alternates between “street talk” and flawless diction. The gimmick is that when Reefer speaks Standard English, Finn is unable to see him at all.
The commentary, initially clever, quickly wears thin. Sure, there are funny bits along the way: Finn’s sporting of a safari hat and a T-shirt that reads “Ironic” in large letters, or his trailing a spool of thread behind him so as to not lose his way in this “urban jungle,” or Reefer’s code switching and his defense of his use of the word “whom.” But the message of this barely 15-minute piece doesn’t move far beyond the obvious, leaving one hoping for a deeper exploration of a potentially interesting set-up.
The second and more substantial piece, Locomotive Repair in Three Easy Steps, is a takeoff on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, except that the sisters are a bit drunk and cruder. While Kimble crafts Chekhovian-style dialogue between Masha (Claire Winters), Olga (Suzan Mikiel), and Irina (Emily McLeod) reasonably accurately, the more interesting scene involves two new characters: Blueprint (Wallace) and Coverall (Adam Tomei). Their philosophical debate, which transpires as they try to fix the titular locomotive, embraces the same upheaval of class structure that fascinated Chekhov, but in a much more literal way. Director Christina Cigala cleverly connects the two plays by turning the rusted shopping cart inhabited by Reefer from the first play into the locomotive in need of repair in the second. Still, the overall message feels a bit heavy-handed, while the Chekhovian in-jokes may be a bit obscure for the average audience member, especially the casual theatergoers that the Fringe Festival tends to draw.
Dorie Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; through June 24. (323) 455-4585 or www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3401. Running time: 45 minutes