Theater review: 'Almost An Evening' at the Garage Theatre
Where’s Anton Chigurh when you need him? The coin-tossing hit man of “No Country for Old Men” might have scared some sense into the Garage Theatre’s undisciplined production of “Almost An Evening,” Ethan Coen’s trio of short plays.
The filmmaker’s foray into playwriting bears the hallmark of the Coen oeuvre: serious men trapped in darkly indifferent environs. But while Jeffery Eisenmann’s spare set and Matari 2600’s witty sound design -- including a muzak version of “Come As You Are" -- strike the right tone of absurdist minimalism, directors Kristal Greenlea and Eric Hamme haven’t corralled their actors into a corresponding style. Slick sap Jason Weissbrod’s “Hudsucker”-sized performance in “Waiting” torpedoes the play’s potential creepiness, while uneven accents in the Texas sauna of “Four Benches” mar this sketch of a British spy (Paul Knox) who longs to connect instead of kill.
Things improve for the final “Debate,” in which a choleric God Who Judges (Knox) battles it out with a sweet-faced God Who Loves (Matthew Anderson). Knox makes a fabulously blistering deity, and his screed should be the unhinged finale to a tighter, less ingratiating evening; such restraint might have given Coen’s droll shorts the queasy punch they need. Some productions call for dramaturgs; others require a muse with a pneumatic gun.
-- Charlotte Stoudt
“Almost An Evening” The Garage Theatre, 251 East 7th St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends March 26. $15-$18. Contact: (866) 811-4111 or www.thegaragetheatre.org Running time: 2 hours.
Photo: Stephen Alkus, left, and Paul Knox in “Almost An Evening.” Credit: FreshFrameFoto.com