The Internationalist

Presented by 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.) at 45 Bleecker Theater: 45 Below, 45 Bleecker St., NYC, April 19-May 8.

Welcome to Anne Washburn, an original new voice whose self-styled "elusive comedy," "The Internationalist," is fresh, provocative, riveting, and more entertaining and satisfying than many long-running hits. Postmodern in its direction by Ken Rus Schmoll and set design by Sue Rees, "The Internationalist" is a new kind of play for the 21st century. The ending is a bit of a downer, as it leaves many questions unanswered, but it is faithful to its stated elusive quality.

"The Internation-alist" is a 21st-century gloss on "the ugly American" theme, but much kinder and more satiric. Our hero, Lowell, an American on a business trip, arrives at some unnamed European country, and is surprised to be met at the airport by Sara, a beautiful colleague who takes him home with her. The next day, at the company headquarters, he discovers that nothing is what it seems. Not knowing the language, he is at a decided disadvantage both in understanding the customs of the country and conducting conversations with the natives, and finds himself shut out of office politics and social life. Part of the play is spoken in a made-up foreign language, which adds to the mystery and humor. The play's slogan is quite apt: "No hero, no morals, no subtitles."

As Lowell, Mark Shanahan is ingenuous yet sympathetic, with a pleasing personality. Heidi Schreck's Sara is both attractive and mysterious at the same time. The other cast members each play two roles with outstanding versatility. Gibson Frazier, Kristen Kosmas, and Travis York amusingly make up the office staff, who keep slipping into their native language just as secrets are about to be revealed. Michael Stumm is mysterious in differing ways as the elusive boss, Simon, and the devious colleague, Paul.

Reviews continue on page 56