DC: Studio Theatre: The Internationalist

The Internationalist is a fun, kooky comedy about barriers of communication, culture, and love. American businessman Tyler Lowell is sent to an unidentified eastern European country. There he is thrown completely out of his element, perpetually lost in the country's customs, food, and language. Playwright Anne Washburn has invented a language for this county, and the actors carry it off with great aplomb. We are put in the same boat as Lowell, not understanding the words, but doing our best to make what sense we can by reading facial expressions and reactions.

The play opens with Lowell (Tyler Pierce) entering fresh-faced, well-dressed, grooving to the cool tunes of Jason Mraz on his iPod; he is a man ready to travel. The other actors whirl onto the stage and create the effects of a 16-hour journey (with a five-hour layover in Istanbul). They ruffle his hair, remove his jacket and stomp on it, and give Lowell a decisive wedgie. By the end of this experience Lowell looks harried and disheveled.

At the airport Lowell is met by his colleague Sara, and they begin a flirtation. Tonya Beckmam Ross is alluring and mysterious, with strength and a sense of danger. When Lowell arrives at work the next morning he discovers that she isn't an executive, but the file girl, and is treated with disdain by the other co-workers. Just as Lowell is perhaps a confident man in America, but lost and ineffectual in this foreign country, Sara is likewise different in different surroundings.

As Lowell struggles to interact with his co-workers his confusion only seems to grow, not dissipate. Pierce is very successful as Lowell, creating an everyman with whom the audience can sympathize. Pierce manages to remain endearing throughout his constant state of bafflement.

Every one of Lowell’s new co-workers is well played, each slightly eccentric, and each with a sense of foreignness. It is an absolute delight to watch the actors play off of each other, they all have excellent timing. Jason Lott is the slightly awkward worker, whose English is not so good, and manages to always say the wrong thing, "Do you know that what you did to the Indians is wrong?" Such commentary on our own culture is just the right amount. It makes us laugh, and is enough to make us think, but not enough to feel heavy-handed or preachy.

Holly Twyford is Irene, the female executive, and her facial expressions while speaking the other language are particularly clear and convincing. Cameron McNary is the abrasive and oily Nichol. The final cast member is James Konicek, who is such a rare actor; I really cannot think of anyone else like him. He has a deep, mellifluous voice, which though low still works on a range of tones and pitches. His physicality is impressive, he is incredibly elegant, and uses this to great effect in the creation of his characters. He plays Simon, the nervous and odd boss whom everyone walks on eggshells around, and Paul, the unpredictable employee with dark plans.

The strong cast, snappy direction (Kirk Jackson), and creative script make for a thoroughly delightful evening at the theatre.

4 stars
Through June 22nd


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