Woolly Mammoth's Current Nobody

Saturday night I spent at another theatre that after a year here has become one of my favorites. The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is one devoted to the development of new works. As their mission says, they “hunt for the most creative new plays by the nation’s most dating emerging writers.” As we know, new plays can be hit or miss, but everything Woolly has produced in the last year has been of excellent quality. Their latest, Current Nobody by Melissa James Gibson, is no exception. In fact, it might be my favorite production that I have seen there.

Gibson’s play is a riff on the story of The Odyssey. It is set in present day, and further changed by role reversals. Odysseus doesn’t go off to war and get waylaid on his way home, instead, he becomes Od and gets left behind at home with a baby daughter, Tel. Penelope become Pen, a photo-journalist sent to cover the war in Troy. The script is wonderful. It is smart, it is funny, it is clever, it is poetic. Gibson clearly has an ear for language. She makes delightful connections between words. My favorite example comes early on in the play when Od is dealing with his wife leaving to do her job once again. He tries to reassure himself. The generals all say it will be a short war, in and out, soon it will be over, and “generals are generally right.” Gibson is a playwright to watch out for.

The script is even more delightful when we finally meet Pen about half way through. She is giving a press conference where she describes the adventures that have kept her from home. Audience members who know the plot of The Odyssey will enjoy the way Gibson rewrites those events. And if you don’t know that story, you will still enjoy the successful balance of silliness and seriousness that is found in this script.

Director Daniel Aukin has assembled an excellent cast. There is not a single weak performance in the group. Jesse Lenat is engaging and likable as Od. Christina Kirk as Pen creates a character that is matter-of-fact and driven, but still sympathetic and relatable. Michael Willis is dry and funny as Bill the Delivery Guy. Casie Platt does nice work as Tel, portraying a young woman who is trying to hold her father together, while trying to discover who she is. Jessica Dunton, Kathryn Falcone, and Deb Gottesman are great as Suzie, Jo, and Joe, the three indie-filmmaker suitors.

4 stars.
Through November 25th.


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