Cleveland Public Theatre
Let's face it, we're now all one click away from doom—personal or professional—since our misdirected texts or elegantly composed crotch shots can be sent worldwide in a nanosecond. This is the modern technological rat's nest that is addressed in Doug Is a D-Bag now at Cleveland Public Theatre. Written and directed by Renee Schilling, it's basically a knock-off of the TV show The Office with one huge innovative twist: audience members are encouraged to leave their phones on and use them during the show. This becomes immediately apparent when the house lights go down and many faces in the audience are lit up by their screens as the chirps and dings float in the air. It's kind of like being in an electronic meadow at dusk. Set in the office of Re-Imaginate, Inc., a human resources management firm, the play tracks the fraught relationship between co-workers Doug (Matt O'Shea) and Lorie (Emily Pucell). Corporate buzzwords and phrases pile up as a gaggle of other workers, as well as the firm's founder and his wife, try to resolve their own HR storms. Taken as an experiment, Doug seems like a mixed bag. It certainly explores the idea of audience participation via smart phone. And there are some very clever moments in Schilling's script, amid some more predictable palaver. But it's not clear how the audience texts impacted the show, other than distracting the texters themselves from the action on stage. And while the characters are also sometimes preoccupied with their texts on stage, it's hard to see how that functions as a new dramatic tool of any lasting consequence.
Through Dec. 14, 6415 Detroit Avenue,
Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead,
None Too Fragile Theater
Mix festering rage with edgy wit and you have a powerful formula for theatrical success. And playwright Eric Bogosian captures a lot of that pissed-off magic in Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead, now at the None Too Fragile Theater. With Sean Derry as the sole actor, this is a revisiting of the performance Derry did some years ago as part of the Bang and Clatter company. And it once again highlights many of Derry's significant strengths: his go-for-broke commitment to the scuzziest of characters, his precise comic timing, and his willingness to engage and confront an audience. Under the smooth direction of Alanna Romansky, the two-act show glides from character to character as Bogosian unwraps various forms of male bile—from odd sexual predilections (one involving Dame Judi Dench fucking him in the ass while pounding on his head with a wooden mallet) to various macho frustrations with feminist excesses, suburban sell-outs and people who drive Honda Accords at the speed limit. It is a tribute to Derry that he can still ignite jokes from some damp, dated material. In "Medicine," the script pokes fun at all the side effects from some drugs. This was written long before the TV ads that dominate these days, with descriptions of side effects that are truly terrifying and funnier, in a ghastly way, than anything Bogosian could imagine. While Derry has perfected his vocal presentation over the years, developing his deep guttural rasp into a kind of narrative music reminiscent of Tom Waits, this "fried" voice has its limitations. One is that it's harder to delineate different characters since they all sound like variations of one guy. But when that one guy is Sean Derry, you are in for one whale of a ride. And you'll find yourself laughing in spite of yourself.
Through Dec. 8, 1835 Merriman Rd., Akron, 330-671-4563, nonetoofragile.com