Misha Shulman sure has a thing for ducks. In the collection of sketches Brunch at the Luthers (and Other Quacks), the playwright/actor delivers a brief monologue, “The Meaning of a Duck,” and in his featured one-act, “Brunch at the Luthers,” each and every guest arrives with the same ducky figurine, before all conversation degenerates into a series of quacks and arm-flaps.
Supposedly an homage to old-school absurdism, this very long 75 minutes of obscure foolery just seems old, like discarded outtakes from Living Theatre or Joseph Chaikin workshops. The opening seven vignettes (by both Shulman and his DADAnewyork cast members) barely qualify as classroom exercises. And in so obviously emulating such classics of the genre as The Bald Soprano and The Chairs, “Brunch” invites comparisons that it can’t live up to. Ionesco structured his inspired nonsense around a strong central dramatic tension, while Shulman’s shenanigans are too slight and self-aware to resonate beyond the silly. Only actress Priscilla Flores’s scarily bizarre climactic dance succeeds in shocking us.
Shulman, an Israeli-born writer, has shown promise in his previous, more political work about the intifada. This departure into waterfowl farce, though, just made me want to duck and cover.