Entertainment » Theatre

Marshall

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Mar 9, 2018
Marshall

"Marshall," being presented by Epic Theatre Company, has an intriguing premise: an android competes with an actor for a movie role.

The story takes place in the not so distant future, a world where bowling is illegal and robots are being sent out to audition for acting jobs.

Playwright Kevin Broccoli stars as the robot known as Green, who once played Hamlet.

"I earned it," Broccoli boasts.

The android has a seemingly endless knowledge of movies. In one virtuoso scene, Broccoli recites a string of famous catchphrases from classics such as "The Wizard of Oz," "Star Wars," and "Casablanca." There were so many I lost count. This moment alone would be enough to make "Marshall" worth seeing, but there are several others as well.

Christopher Crider-Plonka plays an unnamed actor who is down on his luck. His girlfriend has broken up with him and he is facing eviction from his apartment. He really needs the role of Marshall and is threatened by Green, his non-human rival.

Broccoli and Crider-Plonka have a sizzling chemistry as they debate whether or not a robot can simulate human emotions.

The relationship between the two starts off prickly, then gradually morphs into a grudging respect.

"This is not an audition, it's a sick game," Crider-Plonka says to Broccoli shortly before they kneel on the floor and pretend to be wolves.

Another very funny scene has Crider-Plonka showing Broccoli how humans kiss. They also discuss the experience of being naked on stage. Crider-Plonka says it's silly but also "liberating" before stripping off his clothes.

Crider-Plonka, who delivered a brilliant performance in Epic's "Red Speedo" last year, turns in superb work here as well. Particularly effective is a monologue where he vents his rage over having sacrificed a relationship to his career ambitions. We feel the pain and desperation of someone who is trying to fulfill his dreams.

Broccoli also makes us feel empathy for a machine by showcasing Green's insecurities. He may have been programmed to be an actor but he still needs guidance from a human to realize his goal.

"Marshall" follows the template of Broccoli's 2016 show, "James Franco and Me." That show featured multiple actors as Franco starring alongside Broccoli. In this show, Crider-Plonka is one of six performers who will alternate as the actor. The others are Nick Doig, Dillon Medina, Adam Fleming, Michael Puppi, and Matthew Gorgone.

In his director's notes, Broccoli said the play is being done without any rehearsals beforehand. It's a risk which paid off with this performance.
It's a bare-bones production. No sets or fancy lighting. Just Broccoli and Crider-Plonka on a stage in Artists' Exchange cozy Black Box Theatre.

"Marshall" asks whether machines can be effective substitutes for living, breathing human beings. It is a provocative question to ask and Broccoli leaves the answer up to the audience.

The play also depicts the love that actors have for acting. It's more than a profession and the passion which compels them to spend hours waiting in a room, hoping to get the part they desire.

"Marshall" understands this and proceeds confidently to a satisfying conclusion.

"Marshall" runs through March 24. Epic Theatre Company. Artists Exchange Black Box Theatre. 50 Rolfe Square, Cranston. www.artists-exchange.org. www.epictheatreri.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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