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Off-Off-Broadway Review

Tibet Does Not Exist

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Tibet Does Not Exist
Instead of claiming that a talented performer could make reading the phone book interesting, I'd like to suggest substituting playwright Don Thompson's Tibet Does Not Exist. Based on Nicu's Spoon's inexplicable revival of this talky, dated play about the atrocities committed against Tibet by China (and against man by man), it's almost impossible to think of a performer who could make Thompson's portentous dialogue sound either natural or fresh.
Fleeing an unsafe Tibet for the relative security of a Connecticut college, Tibetan monk Buton Rinpoche (Peter Quinones) engages three professors in varying levels of annoying sophistry for two very long hours. Perhaps their philosophical parrying and thrusting wouldn't seem so tedious if either Thompson or director Pamela Butler showed any signs of understanding theatre, but Thompson writes long, soggy patches of dialogue that Butler halfheartedly tries to enliven by directing her actors to cross back and forth on stage in the middle of conversation.
Of course, it doesn't help that Thompson has given Rinpoche's favorite conversational partner, Professor Walsh (Scott David Nogi), an ersatz British accent that makes Madonna sound as if she's from the Bronx, or that Quinones has trouble pronouncing his r's and expressing emotion. And regardless of their vocal tics, both actors sound barely more entertained by their debates about reality and perception than we are.
Sara Thigpen brings a welcome sense of professionalism to her too-few scenes as a pragmatic professor, but even she's stymied by unintentionally hilarious dialogue about a newfangled invention called the Internet. At least, I assume the World Wide Web is supposed to be new in Thompson's play. Certainly all the professors seem perplexed during a lengthy discourse from a student (Tim Romero) about being a "cyber monk." But in an age of Facebook, iTunes, and photo-hosting sites, what might have seemed fresh and tantalizing a decade ago is no longer revolutionary or thought-provoking.
Not that it matters when Tibet Does Not Exist is filled with far more painfully wrongheaded moments, chief among them Rinpoche's costume (Tibetan robes and battered white sneakers) and a first act monologue from an unintroduced character who never again reappears. By the time Rinpoche posits for the umpteenth time that none of them really exist, we start hoping that it's a promise and not just philosophical chitchat.

Presented by and at Nicu's Spoon38 W. 38th St., 5th floor, NYC. April 1126. Wed.–Sun., 8 p.m.(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.spoontheater.org.

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