Theater archives

Hello Failure: Subdued Existentialism


Kristen Kosmas’s subdued existentialist comedy Hello Failure takes us into the humdrum lives of submariners and the women who wait for them. While the men submerge offstage on an unexplained mission, the wives gather in coffee-fueled support groups to engage in chat about the weather and other distractions. Coping strategies range from having affairs to taking Japanese lessons to—in the case of the particularly off-the-deep-end Rebecca (played by Kosmas herself)—refusing to surface from one’s own bathtub. Complicating Rebecca’s predicament are visits from someone claiming to be the ghost of Horace Hunley (a deliciously creepy Matthew Maher), who pioneered—and died in—one of the first combat subs back in the Civil War.

Kosmas’s submarine widows—sensitively embodied by a strong cast under Ken Rus Schmoll’s direction—form an unlikely but appealing chorus of mock Trojan women, their lament one of boredom, not death. But aside from occasional flashes of wit and insight about female isolation, the script keeps the audience stuck in a holding pattern as well. Ennui can be compelling in itself, but not without at least some suspense or surprises. And by favoring wordplay and elusive imagery over direct engagement of the characters with one another, Kosmas’s opaque language—though at times poetically intriguing—doesn’t help. Leah Gelpe’s New Age sound cues and Garin Marschall’s resourceful lighting do make an entrancing dreamscape out of P.S. 122’s humble downstairs space—but while Hello Failure has all the makings of a strong one-act, the craft on display seems too flimsy to sustain a full 90-minute voyage.