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Abundance

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Taking to task the inequitable distribution of America's wealth, "Abundance" raises complex issues, asks provocative questions, and offers some utopian answers. Playwright Marty Pottenger tells us in no uncertain terms that things would be better for all of us if we all knew that everyone would always have "enough."

Also attempting to survey the country's often unspoken attitudes and foibles concerning money, Pottenger has derived her piece from interviews with minimum-wage workers and multimillionaires, as well as community dialogue groups in which people of different backgrounds opened up as to their financial profiles, mishaps, and obsessions. That her show doesn't quite succeed as emotionally engaging drama is not due to a lack of passion and commitment on the part of the author and her five actors.

Pottenger, who co-directed with Steve Bailey, intermingles her findings with her own sentiments, combining short dramatic scenes with choral-like recitations of statistics, buzz words, and aphorisms: "Money doesn't matter...but it does...can't buy happiness."

Dramatic scenes primarily alternate between the group meetings, where participants spew their financial guts, and an ongoing exchange between an aged, wheelchair-bound billionaire and his underpaid black manservant. The format gives the actors -- Cary Barker, Herb Downer, Joe Gioco, Thom Rivera and Nikki E. Walker -- opportunities to display impressive versatility. And production elements -- lights, music, and large projections dominating set design -- exhibit theatrical savvy.

The writing, though, as it moves from one sequence to another, rarely allows a real connection with the onstage characters, and even when they get prolonged time to tell their stories, the concentration on money matters makes the confessions sound like unedited sound bites. The show also takes potshots at such issues as America's heedless consumption, its lack of universal health insurance, and even the immorality of hostile corporate takeovers. This turns a sometimes-stimulating examination of a big topic into a rather arbitrary litany of complaints.

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