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Slow Boat

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Bad science and frequent phone calls obscure whatever it is that playwright Nick Starr has tucked into this blessedly short (75 minutes) work. Nathan (Anthony Tedesco) and his grandmother Beatrice (Alyssa Lobit) go to China to participate in a body-switching cult--stay with me--while his father (Paul Schackman, definitively dad-like) is constantly checking in by Exploritations, a telecommunication option that exists somewhere between hologram projector and Star Trek transporter and which is nicely voiced by Christina Huntington. Anyway, when Nathan isn't talking to Dad, he's checking messages. We know his girlfriend Linda (a quite winsome Tanya Giang) only as a saved message until her body is inhabited by someone else, finally affording Giang the opportunity to stop repeating the same perky sentiment. And that's not even the half of it.

Nathan, you see, is in his dead grandfather's body (I know, ick) while Beatrice is in a complete stranger's body, that of a much younger Japanese woman. Director Jason Lambert has confusingly cast a young man to play Nathan, who is supposed to be in an old body, and a young woman to play Beatrice, who is in a young body. Whether their original vessels are similarly sublet or merely hanging in the closet awaiting their return, I cannot say. Starr cheats, early and often, by having characters explain away the increasingly tenuous reality he's created by saying, "I know it's confusing." Slightly. Tedesco runs around in an old body as if it were a young one. Lobit has left Bea's lifetime of mannerisms in the old shell. Starr inexplicably introduces Bea, now housed in a body with a half century's less wear and tear, by having her sit and read rather than, say, violating the waiter (Allen C. Liu). Liu, by the way, is the highlight of the show, playing every local character. His choices are big and bold enough that they finally jolt you out of the "whaaaaat?' aspects of the production. Oh, and bring a Chinese fan, not only to complement the handsome red-pillared set (Jerry Buszek, Jason Bernstein, Jackie Ohnir) but because it's really, really hot in the theatre.

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