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Theatrical Mining Company Self, Inc.

By • Jul 27th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Self, Inc.
Theatrical Mining Company (Baltimore Playwrights Festival)
College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
Through July 31st
1:40 with intermission
$10
Reviewed July 21st, 2011

The setting is the corporate headquarters of Total Refuse. The year is 2061. The day is Thursday. In this imagined future, every day is Thursday. The basic plot of Self, Inc. is about Francis Elfman, a sort of bland fellow, who invents a time machine that brings his future self back to try to help his current self prevent an impending takeover by corporate giant Chic-A-Fila. The tone and style were very reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. There were some real glimmers in the script, but it overall didn’t quite work. The production by Theatrical Mining Company seemed to, for the most part, follow the direction and vision of the script, although there was a glaring hole in the cast. Overall, it was intriguing and different but a little confusing and unfocused.

The main theme of the play seemed to be anti-conformity. In the society, every day was Thursday, every month was April, and Total Refuse workers were all given matching silver and orange jumpsuits to wear. However, the characters did not conform very well, and, by result, they were kind of annoying. Shock smacked his butt and humped things a lot, while also stating that he didn’t see the need of pride over his individuality or “sticking feathers in his butt.” Lemuel was constantly involved in some bizarre worship of an imagined god, including spending an entire day with his eyes shut. So was the point supposed to be that conformity was better? Helena seemed much happier at the end when she accepted a fate of conformity, and Ludmilla was much happier with her husband at an older, more settled age. This was all intermingled with the bizarre relationship between the two Francises, which may have been romantic. That was a little confusing as well. The end result was feeling like this show was trying really hard to say something, but what it was trying to say was a mystery. However, the comic dialogue that was written for the character of Wilma and a few other characters demonstrated that, when just telling a story and entertaining, playwright J-F Bibeau was able to write some funny things.

Maybe it was because her character had some of the best writing, but, either way, Tamika B. Roland was the highlight of the show. Everything was better the second that she stepped on the stage. Her comedic delivery was perfect for the character. This is the kind of character and performance that often makes sketch comedy shows. Even after the performance, you want to see more Wilma. Micah Chalmer gave another good performance, making Aaron one of the most likeable and believable characters in the piece.

Dale Henderson Jr. (Shock) was wildly obnoxious, but this seemed to be a purposeful and planned character choice. Stacey Bonds (Ludmilla) and Foxglove Zayuri (Helena Studs) both gave decent performances as rather one-dimensional characters. Towards the end, both had opportunities to show a little more depth but still not much. They were, however, limited by the script. It was never clear what J-F Bibeau (Lemuel Drain) was doing with his character, but he seemed to have written the character to be this special kind of weird. Joseph M. Dunn (Agent 121) had the right voice and look for the secret agent, reminiscent of old spy movies. Unfortunately, either because of the writing or their performances, none of these actors were really quite able to do anything remarkable.

The weakest link in the production was Brandon Gorin (Francis Elfman), and he should have carried the show. His delivery was forced and uninspired, and he did not seem to be comfortable in finding the character or becoming part of the world. He seemed very inexperienced and just not very strong as an actor. Luckily, Francis 2 (Carroll Haupt) was much better, though it makes one wonder why he was not Francis 1 instead. He had a good presence and energy and really worked to give the character levels and depth, even when they were not apparent in the writing.

The set was simple but effective. However, in such an intimate space, it might have been better to have a desk wind up slightly off-center than to have such visible tape on the floor. The lighting was also simple but seamless, and the effects were done nicely. The music was ideal for setting the mood for this genre of futuristic sci-fi. The costumes were well-done and creative. They may have been one of the better insights into the point the piece was trying to make.

There was something about this piece, but there was also something missing. If the playwright could really separate the things that worked from the things that didn’t, he might be on to something.

Cast

  • Francis Elfman: Brandon Gorin
  • Wilma Rogers: Tamika B. Roland
  • Ludmilla Gendron: Stacey Bonds
  • Aaron Gendron: Micah Chalmer
  • Shock Planters: Dale Henderson Jr.
  • Lemuel Drain: J-F Bibeau
  • Helena Studs: Foxglove Zayuri
  • Francis 2: Carroll Haupt
  • Agent 121: Joseph M. Dunn

Production Crew

  • Director: Da’Minique M. Williams
  • Playwright: J-F Bibeau
  • Producer/Dramaturg: Jacob Hellman
  • Artistic Director: Barry Feinstein
  • Light/Sound Board Operator: Dominic Gladden
  • Scenic Artist: David Cunningham
  • Costume Design: J-F Bibeau
  • Lighting Designer: Charles Danforth III
  • Sound Design: J-F Bibeau & Foxglove Zayuri
  • Photography: Philip Laubner
  • Poster/Graphic Designer: Darla Luke

Disclaimer: Theatrical Mining Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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