We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
W.S. Jenks & Son (tickets available here)
Sunday, July 12 at 4:15 p.m.
Friday, July 17 at 10 p.m.
Saturday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 at 12:15 p.m.
A comedy paralleling Shakespeare’s Macbeth about actors lured by the promise of Hollywood fame into murder. Only one brave heroine can save her true love from the experiment; unfortunately she’s the type of brave heroine who is afraid of everything.
Don’t be fooled by the promo image. That white-coated woman with her beakers and pipettes suggests that Experimental might be, well, lab-related. Is “the experiment” born out of some mad scientist’s mind? Is this a sci-fi Shakespearean farce?
No, is the answer, and it comes very quickly. That’s “experimental” as in “experimental theater,” of course!
Experimental is meant to be a metatheatrical investigation of free will, fame, and jealousy. It opens with two actors, arriving for rehearsal, making small talk before picking up their scripts — only to discover their idle introductions repeating themselves, printed out in the packets that were waiting for them. Why bother rehearsing, when they’ve always been reading from the script?
The mysterious, always-absent playwright, Bob, clearly has some sort of prophetic powers. Or perhaps it’s his intuitive assistant, Ann, who’s pulling the strings. Either way, being human, the leads can’t help but flip ahead to see what’s in store for them — setting off the vaguely Scottish-play-esque plot of ambition and revenge.
There’s also some sort of palindrome motif, or so the playbill suggests — although, beyond one character named Nan, and another being unsure of where an epilogue belongs, it’s never more than faintly realized.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only element of this production that remains half-baked. The script wants to work with big ideas of fate and trust and fear, but can’t think of what to do with them. Even more disappointingly, the wooden acting reveals no chemistry between either of the two central couples, and fails to arouse any interest in their fates.
There are some highlights: Pamela Kasenantz, as the increasingly witchy director’s assistant, is entirely committed to the absurdity of her part, and Dena Colvin’s paranoid Nan has some entertaining panic-induced meltdowns. And toward the end, the two star in a scene that’s both charming and compelling. For a moment, it threatened to upend the philosophical underpinnings of the play, pulling something surprising and even meaningful out of the idea-potpourri on stage.
Alas — it was an idle threat, and the moment passed.
See it if: You value a play’s ambition.
Skip it if: You prefer your ideas well-executed.
Photo courtesy of XY Players