In his stage debut, New American Appliances writer and star Eric Alleman chats with his fridge, spars with his typewriter, and maintains relatively healthy relationships with the rest of the machines around him. Yet he can't connect with human beings on even the most basic level. "I feel a very tight connection to a lot of inanimate objects," he says. "But sometimes I have a difficult time creating those same relationships with people. It's just easier to anthropomorphize an object and control it rather than to interact with humans."
Alleman conceived the idea for his first play during a bout of writer's block. As leader of local avant-rock combo To Box With Man, Alleman was having trouble connecting with audiences. His struggles turned symbolic with New American Appliances, which Alleman says is mostly autobiographical. But he's quick to add, "It's to the extreme end. I mean, I do have friends."
The (mostly) one-man show part of Cleveland Public Theatre's Big [Box] series features Alleman interacting with appliances that are projected onstage on a videoscreen. Offstage pals provide the voices of a matronly refrigerator, a wifely typewriter, and a hostile telephone. "I have a lot of problems with obsession and obsession over material objects," says Alleman. "It's a story about a schizophrenic whose personality manifests itself in the appliances."
Ultimately, Appliances becomes a story of hope, says its creator. "I'm a sucker for schmaltz," says Alleman. "I'm not there to confuse or piss off the audience. I'm there to entertain." And it's a work that's achieved its initial goal of firing up Alleman's imagination. "I want audiences to see somebody who's exhibiting insane tendencies," he says. "But it's essentially a story about a guy making a decision about a relationship and then questioning that decision. Maybe something can be changed. That's a very universal idea."
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 29, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 27. Continues through Jan. 28