Returning for an encore performance at The Tank this month, Mahinerator utilizes a "quasi-English pseudolect" to tell a sci-fi story about industrialization.
Steve Mellor plays the lead, "an ambitious bureaucrat" who invents new machines for ecological destruction. Before creating his invention, the character starts at an entry-level position, throwing pebbles on the "greenibits ." He then comes up with a tube that shoots the stones out. Mellor gives a real humanity to this character as he strives to climb the ladder of business, power, control and innovation. His performance is incredibly impressive, particularly in his handling of the language. Mellor imbues every coded word with meaning, allowing the audience to understand the plot through the character's emotional life. Those struggling to make sense of the text are able to follow the arch of the story through the performance. The actor's decoding of the language and ability to use the heightened text to enhance his storytelling suggest he is a seasoned and highly intelligent performer. Mellor uses the language to his benefit, relishing in all the alliteration and musicality of the verse. The repetitive fricative sounds create a percussive rhythm within the text and Mellor plays on this rhythm adeptly. In addition, Mellor embodies some immense feelings (like awe, devastation and betrayal) all while sitting behind a table for the duration of the show. Overall, the performance is the shining highlight of the piece. Mellor drives the show from beginning to end, resulting in a powerful presentation of his talent.
As one might deduce from the previous discussion of the piece, the text is incredibly unique in creating its dialectic. The language in the play utilizes bits of grammar from other languages, while playing with the patterning of English words, letters and syllables. The playwright, Jerry Lieblich, is also a poet and this influence is present throughout the play. The poetic nature of the verse makes the futuristic language feel akin to the heightened language of Shakespeare. While the language itself was imaginative and immersive, I found the plot hard to follow at times. If the text had been slightly more coherent and accessible to the audience, I could have appreciated the story more and felt more invested.
The music composition by Mike Cassedy bolsters the storytelling and furthers the production value. The music supports the show's tone and, at times, underlines moments of importance within the story. The music feels as though it fits within the world of the play. It also informs the performance and style; Mellor's lines are delivered hand in hand with crescendos of sound.
For those interested in sci-fi futurism and language degeneration as a means of storytelling, this show is a heavy hitter. While some might struggle to make sense of the plot amid the invented dialect, the performance will surely move and impress audiences.
Performed by Steve Mellor
Written by Jerry Lieblich
Directed by Jerry Lieblich and Meghan Finn
January 10- January 21, 2024
The Tank (312 West 36th Street, NYC)
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info