An erudite and goofball concept—mashing up Bertolt Brecht and Shakespeare with George A. Romero and George Lucas to decry the death of culture in a world filled with violence — disappointingly derails in The Deepest Play Ever. Directed by Lee Sunday Evans and Jordan Seavey, there are fitful laughs to be had in this CollaboractionTown show, which imagines a Mother Courage–like figure’s journey with her children through a Zombie-filled wasteland. But Geoffrey Decas O’Donnell’s bloated script proves almost unbearably wearying before it has run its two-and-a-half-hour course.
Thankfully, Michael Wells’s original songs (added since the piece debuted at the 2006 New York Fringe Festival) help to lighten some of script’s heft. The composer combines the harshness of Paul Dessau with Broadway razzmatazz to ingenious effect throughout, and particularly in “Happiness Does Not Last Long in the Post-Post-Apocalypse.” It’s a giddy confection that Emily Walton, playing hardened camp prostitute Yvette, delivers with flair.
Yvette’s just one of the characters who becomes part of the quest that Mother LaMadre (Chinasa Ogbuagu) spearheads to save what remains of world literature from destruction by the failed artist turned undead culture tsar Dalvador Sali (playwright O’Donnell). He needs the tomes she’s collected to fuel his bomb, which after incinerating the volumes, will allow him to create culture, as he sees fit, anew. O’Donnell is certainly on to something with this idea of wanting to create art without precedents, which only makes this play’s unwieldy stew of literary and pop-cultural allusions all the more curious and frustrating.