Joel Mitchell in Breathe Art Theatre's "Yankee Tavern." Photo: Demetri Vacratsis
'Yankee Tavern' is a doodle dandy
By John Quinn
Originally printed 2/17/2011 (Issue 1907 - Between The Lines News)
Steven Dietz's "Yankee Tavern" is an unsettling play. What seems at first to be mere dark comedy turns sinister and leaves its audience questioning the line between truth and lies. The playwright puts it best: "There is always a bigger story hiding in the room than the one you brought through the door with you."
The Yankee Tavern is the last business open in an otherwise abandoned hotel near Ground Zero, New York City. It's over four years since the city was rocked by the tragedy of 9-11-01, but the shock waves have yet to subside. Young Adam has inherited the business from his father. His fiancee, Janet, is looking forward to Adam collecting his graduate degree, getting out from under the failing business and settling down to marital bliss. But relationships are built on trust, and this couple doesn't have enough to share.
The bar's most regular customer is Ray, itinerant homesteader and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire.
His calm, cool explanations of deceit, from the Kennedy assassination to the plot behind Starbucks, and his nightly conversations with the ghosts in the empty hotel are signs we're dealing with a character. Janet seems to enjoy yanking Ray's chain, although Adam discourages her. Small wonder - he has been listening to Ray more closely than Janet knew. The theme of his international studies thesis is that conspiracy theories are more dangerous to society than the events that trigger them. "People will believe anything they have not been given a reason to disbelieve."
If Ray's speculations are odd, they positively run amok with the appearance of a new customer. The taciturn Palmer knows more than he's saying about 9-11, but is he a fellow theorist or one of "them?"
The second act whirls us into a storm of missed calls, missing persons and missing evidence. A sense of paranoia is normal - what can we believe? What cherished lie can be blown away by a doubtful truth?
"Yankee Tavern" is thought-provoking entertainment but is a problematic script. Ray's torrent of conspiracy facts would be numbing if they were not delivered by an actor as talented a Dan Jaroslaw. He drives the narrative. The character may be crazy, but Jaroslaw makes him crazy smart. His timing breaks up the monotony of the rants and puts just the right accent on the comedy.
Joel Mitchell's Palmer is justifiably a cypher; grim, even menacing. He doesn't speak much, so the character needs an aura and Mitchell fills the bill. The script leaves Adam and Janet with rather sketchy character development, yet Kevin Young and Chelsea Sadler succeed on rounding out the roles. Add in the able guiding hand of director Michael Carnow and a solid, squalid set by Valerie Bonasso, and you're ready for an episode of "Who Do You Trust?" That was a game show reference, courtesy of my trivia-filled brain.
"A 'conspiracy theory' is simply a Tall Tale without end," Dietz writes. "Yankee Tavern," too, has no end. It leaves us wondering what dark forces lurk around the next corner.
Breathe Art Theatre Project at The Furniture Factory, 4126 3rd Street, Detroit. Fridays-Saturdays through Feb. 27, plus Sundays Feb. 20 & 27. $20. 248-982-4121. http://www.BreatheArtTheatre.com
Then at Mackenzie Hall, 3277 Sandwich St., Windsor, Ontario. March 3,4 & 6. $20. 519-255-7600. http://www.BreatheArtTheatre.com
- Labadie Collection
- Bath Remodeling
- Esquire Interiors
- Families and Parents
- Hair Cutting & Styling
- Charmed Salon and Boutique
- Grinstein Jewelry
- Lewis Jewelers
- Religious & Spiritual
- St. Aidan's Episcopal Church
- The French Laundry
- Fishbones Rythym Kitchen Cafe
- Wedding Gowns
- Runaway Brides
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Q&A: Bill Hader Talks Gay Kisses ('Paul Rudd Tastes Like Chicken') & Trans Sketch ('Sorry')
- Q&A: Jennifer Hudson On Lesbian Rumors & Drag Queen Attitude: 'I Don't Care What You Think'
- Q&A: Annie Lennox On Her Legacy, Why Beyonce Is 'Feminist Lite'
- Barbra Streisand's Duet With Gay Son Is Highlight Of New Album
- BREAKING: Is Terri Lynn Land's Family Violating Nonprofit Regulations?
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and running mate Lisa Brown sat down with BTL publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz prior to the Michigan Democratic Convention for a wide-ranging conversation about their campaign, what a SchauerBrown administration would be like for the LGBT community and who would be included. They addressed LGBT civil rights, health issues, senior care, marriage equality and how both of them have come to be such vocal allies of the LGBT community. Here is a recap of Schauer's words on these concerns.View More Pride Source Votes
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!