Hebrew linguistics, futile customer service, and the musings of Carl Sagan constitute just some of the ingredients in the hard-to-digest stew of Sibyl Kempson’s Potatoes of August. And did I mention the talking potatoes? When freaked out by a particularly “sentient” batch of starchy staples, a pair of identically dressed retirement-age couples from a generic middle-American landscape grope for meaning. The plotless existential nausea that ensues finds the characters questioning their marriages and their place in the cosmos, occasionally in tuneless song.
With its coy erudition and affectless lunacy, Kempson’s writing recalls that of Mac Wellman. The potatoes, alas, are only represented in voiceover and video projection, but the appealing human ensemble includes Laura Berlin Stinger and Anna Foss Wilson as the wily wives, and Kristen Kosmas and the playwright herself cross-dressing as their frontiersmen husbands.
Thanks to their expert delivery of deadpan absurdism, the play gets by on their charm for the first act. But eventually Kempson’s self-professed “fugue” loses track of its theme, and the audience falls into a vegetative state. Like Dixon Place’s promising but makeshift new performance space, the script itself still seems “under construction.”