Theater

Ex Arcadia

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Pastorale (HERE), Deborah Eisenberg’s dawdling audit of ’70s world-weariness, actually falls into the tradition of the
antipastoral. Eisenberg’s
characters are not modern glosses on bucolic shepherds and shepherdesses, but a
city-bred clan immune to the pleasures of the simple life. Dazzling, dotty Melanie (Alison Tatlock), a maelstrom in a peasant blouse, finds herself house-sitting somewhere quaint in New England. Joined by her friends Rachel (Maria Striar) and Steve (Robert Alexander Owens), each more neurotic than the other, the three set about a slow
campaign to destroy
themselves and their digs through a program of drugs, drink, sex, and rampant
overanalysis. Each character’s voice emerges nicely, as
Eisenberg has a fine ear and a subtle command of the ennui and frivolity of ’70s-style
slackerdom. She’s also
mastered the one-liner, as when Steve, describing the Sturm und Drang among his roommates, deadpans, “It’s just so Teutonic over there.” Eisenberg is best known as a writer of short
stories and her one failing lies in her desire to create closure for her characters, to supply
direction to a work that best succeeds as a portrait of
aimlessness. A strained coda in which the principals, about to be banished from the Eden of their rent-free home, climb to the top of a hill and bask in
the beauty of nature, rings
ineluctably false. Director
Pam MacKinnon steers the
entertainment with a deft hand, keeping the pace swift and coaxing strong performances from her actors. While
Pastorale may not offer sheepshearing festivals or maypole dances, it does
provide a pleasant enough idyll amidst the tumult of Downtown theater.

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