Conspiracy theorists, start your engines! Review by Peg Doman
If you believe that multiple upon multiple coincidences make a conspiracy, this play is for you. My natural skepticism took a beating with this play. In the play, Ray (Charles Leggett) says about Adam (Shawn Telford), ďA skeptic, eh? Those are the easiest to convert.Ē
The play takes place in the Yankee Tavern, a venerable dive in old New York . Itís so well known, that people have received mail addressed only to the Yankee Tavern, New York , New York . Itís now run by the former ownerís son Adam. Adamís father had apparently killed himself and Adam, who had never wanted to run the place, does it now out of memory for his dad until the expected condemnation by the city for redevelopment. Adam is also a graduate student completing his thesis, the topic of which he does not reveal to Ray, the old regular and his dadís best friend that Adam inherited along with the bar.
In fact, Ray lives in the unoccupied upstairs of the building and he even has his own key to the bar. When Adam has events that take him out of town, Ray collects the mail, pays the bills and runs the bar. He was the great friend of Adamís dad and is a consistent and unrepentant drinker, letting himself in and drinking at will. ďPut it on my tab,Ē is his consistent rejoinder. Ray is also a confirmed believer in conspiracy theories about the 9/11 destruction, and he is never loath to let anyone else know about them. He states that Kissinger, the war criminal, was chosen to head the 9/11 investigatory commission because Hitler and the Pol Pot were not available.
There are only two other characters, Adamís fiancťe Janet (Jennifer Lee Taylor), an attractive woman who loves Ray and comes everyday to the bar with her 24-ounce paper cup of Starbucks coffee. Ray is such an iconoclast, he grabs her cup, pours it out despite her groans, and gives her a mug of the house, probably-been-on-the heater-all-day coffee.
The fourth character is a mature, mostly silent man, Palmer (R. Hamilton Wright) who, when he comes in, orders two bottles of Rolling Rock beer, sets one at the place to his left and drinks the other one. He doesnít offer any explanations and doesnít really participate in the life of the bar. He just listens to Ray expound and Adam and Janet scoff.
Adamís favorite former professor calls him and offers to introduce him to some important people in Georgetown , Washington D.C. Janet and Ray are skeptical about this trip. Is the female professor interested in Adam; does she have CIA-type contacts that she wants to have him interact with and why? What is her ulterior motive in inviting Adam to the nationís capitol?
In the second act, Palmer speaks up about a friend of his who was in the third building to fall, which was supposedly empty before it fell and Mickey disappeared. Mickeyís wife hasnít heard from him in five years and his body was never recovered. Palmer is driven by a need to know, including if any of the conjectures about an existing conspiracy are true. But who has proof? Who is behind this heinous loss of life and property? Who profited by it?
As the play builds, the tension enlarges to fill the spaces left by the speculation. Does Adam really believe in a 9/11 conspiracy? Can Ray prove anything? Does Palmer hold the key with his missing friend Mickey represented by the second Rolling Rock? And what the hell is Adamís professor up to? Is she going to try to get him into the CIA or someplace else in the spook community? Does she want to test the waters of Adamís thesis, which is based on Rayís conspiracy theories? Or, does she just want to get into his pants?
Itís an enormously entertaining play. Director and playwright Steven Deitz also wrote the wonderfully funny and human "Beckyís New Car" (which had its debut at ACT). The "Yankee Tavern" is inventive, funny, curious and just downright intriguing. This play is what you want to go to the theater for: for fun, for insights into the characters and their situations and for just powerful acting.
The "Yankee Tavern" set by Matthew Smucker is, again, a character in the play because it is as apt and as interesting as the people and the story. The set is like an egg shell in which the people enact their lives.
ďYankee TavernĒ runs until August 29. For individual and group ticket and other information, call the box office at ACT Ė A Contemporary Theatre: 206-292-7676 or go online to www.acttheatre.org.