The Eco Show is a new Necessary Angel co-pro currently playing at Buddies. It’s also the latest work written and directed by Daniel Brooks, so it would seem to go without saying that it’s one of the most visually striking plays of the season, with masterful use of sound, lighting and A/V. It tells the story of a mysterious, insular family presided over by the sanctimonious and wheelchair-bound patriarch Hamm (yes, ha ha). Put-upon wife Gwen takes care of Hamm, his dying father, his sick daughter Fifi and his moody teenage son Joe. Don’t be fooled by the title. Although Hamm is prone to the odd “what is the environment coming to?” tirades, the ecology being scrutinized by the piece is a very small and particular one: that of the featured family itself.
Richard Clarkson turns in a really terrific performance as obnoxious, yet somehow appealing, Hamm. In fact, all of the cast does admirable work. Fiona Highet’s Gwen is truly sympathetic and Joe Cobden makes surly teenager Joe a comedic success. But somehow, despite gorgeous design, a winning cast and interesting, realistic dialogue, the show doesn’t quite hang together. Like Beckett’s Endgame, there are lots of unanswered questions (Why can’t the family leave the house? What is outside? Why is Hamm in a wheelchair? Why is his father dying? Why is Fifi sick?), but the play isn’t written in Beckett’s absurdist style. What starts out as mysterious eventually just becomes a little annoying. And while there’s a lot of great work happening in individual scenes, a lack of narrative progression means that those scenes all start to seem the same after a while; nothing new happens. Still, there are a lot of really successful elements at play here in this visually stunning production, and the subject matter could easily provide conversation fodder for the walk home afterwards.
The Eco Show runs at Buddies until June 1.
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.