Set in New York City in the five days leading up to the 2008 presidential election (something Shoshan never convincingly connects to her script), the play starts on the wrong foot with a prologue involving cast members in head-covering rubber celebrity masks talking around and over each other, mostly in colorful street slang. Not only do the masks hinder intelligibility, but the dialogue is so random and the speakers are so anonymous that we have no idea what is happening or why. As the play moves on through short scenes featuring a head-spinning collection of characters, we begin to realize that certain stories are being followed. The most prominent is that of a demure African-American woman who is appalled when a foul-mouthed black man tries to chat her up on the bus and assumes she is black. She insists she's not, but the assumption rocks her world and sets off a bout of soul-searching.
Shoshan examines constructed racial identities through an intriguing device. A Jewish lesbian's colorful New York speech patterns and vocabulary suddenly switch into florid gangsta-speak when she gets angry at her unseen longtime lover. An older rabbi morphs into a charismatic black preacher in mid-sermon. Unfortunately, the device is used too inconsistently to have more than transient effect.
Performances that stand out include Judith Dry's hilarious lesbian (don't cross her), Duane Cooper's inspired rabbi (his sudden call to Jesus in shul is a riot), and Makeda Declet's wide-eyed young woman who's not black. Meera Rohit Kumbhani is a hoot as a conservative Indian mother increasingly bewildered by her sad-eyed Americanized son, while Dax Valdes shows impressive range switching between that son and a Chinese small-business owner who can't quite master English pronunciation.
There's a fine line between intriguing and confusing an audience, and Shoshan and Strum cross it far too often. They need to buckle down, decide on the play's essential elements, and then start paring away, so their mosaic structure of accreting details can finally form a satisfying picture. The talent is there; the discipline has yet to be arrived at.
Presented by Down Payment Productions at Walkerspace, 46 Walker St., NYC. June 21–July 2. Tue.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m. (800) 838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com. Casting by Megan Larche.