Anyone who ventures over to the Yale Cabaret’s “Request Concert” this weekend expecting a rousing show filled with songs and action is sure to leave disappointed. However, if a well-executed, darkly psychological program is your cup of tea, this show may be the perfect fit.
This work by the German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz, follows Miss Rasch (Alexis McGuinness DRA ’06), a lonely, nondescript woman, as she goes through her evening routine. The use of a single actor and lack of dialogue allows the audience to comprehend Miss Rasch’s personality and neuroses. Although the Yale Cabaret performance is extremely well-acted and well-directed, the fly-on-the-wall approach of the story causes the plot to drag a little as the audience watches the most boring of ordinary chores for the majority of the show.
In the first few minutes, the only sounds consist of Miss Rasch’s high heels clicking on the floor, her heavy sighs, water boiling in the hot pot, and briefly, a QVC program on the television — all sounds that generally form background white noise in people’s houses are the central noises in this apartment.
The main failure of “Request Concert” is its plot, or lack thereof. Observing Miss Rasch wash her dishes, build a turkey and pickle pita pocket, smoke three cigarettes and go to the bathroom twice give the audience a more than thorough understanding of her psyche. However, over an hour of watching these mundane tasks will make all but the most patient of audience members lost at least some interest. After the first half hour, the show is carried solely by McGuinness’ excellent acting.
McGuinness, as the sole actor in the show, does a superb job in her nuanced portrayal of the neurotic Miss Rasch, managing to use just the right amount of sighs and frowns without overacting. McGuinness’ subtle actions and facial expressions are just enough to paint a psychological portrait.
Lighting director Thom Weaver’s DRA ’07 use of a single hanging lightbulb and the harsh fluorescent lighting typical of a cheap apartment complements the lonely mood of the show. The set and costuming, from the bland furniture and pull-out sofa to the lumpy grey cardigan and boring moccasins, all contribute to the main character’s pathetic nature.
Unfortunately for “Request Concert,” Susanna Gellert’s DRA ’06 direction and McGuinness’ acting may not be enough to engage the average audience member for the hour-long performance. Sitting through the monotony of minute actions, the audience’s expectations for something — anything — to happen grow with every minute. Near the end of the play, a surprise plot twist attempts to rescue the show, but comes too late to have any real effect.
For audience members who crave an intense experimental theater experience and are willing to fully invest themselves in each of McGuinness’ actions and expressions, “Request Concert” is sure to be an enjoyable experience. If, like this reviewer, you like your acting with a dash more action this show is like getting a vaccine — you know it’s good for you, but are glad when it’s over.