If there was ever a perfect site for Armchair America: The Recline of Western Civilization, a new comedy by Tom Bondi and Mark Holt, then Dixon Place is it. With its signature motley seating options, from sofas to wing chairs, Dixon Place has a milieu to complement both the show's topical content (armchairs) and its non-traditional structure. The fact that Dixon Place's unusual furnishings are even a subject of note indicates that one's choice of seat does indeed make a statement--the very phenomenon which Bondi and Holt explore in their humorous and at times poignant piece.
The title of Armchair America, and the high camp of its promotional materials, seem to indicate that a cultural exploration of armchairs will take place. Some of the play is comprised of this type of analysis: We are introduced to a band of 11 characters (and the armchairs in question, via slides), whose testimonies are interspersed with authoritative PBS-like commentary by a narrator (played with headset-wearing, slide-advancing accuracy by Lora Chio).
Amidst a bona fide and well-researched history of the chair, witty and insightful notes are sounded about the overlooked importance of chairs in our society. "Chair propaganda begins in preschool," our narrator informs us (i.e. musical chairs). The most damning ill-wish for one accused of a serious crime? "I hope you get the chair." It was somewhat disappointing, then, when play's main thrust was not one of cultural exploration, but a parade of psychological profiles.
As much as the play in some ways asserts itself as a cultural critique, the narratives feature chairs functioning more as a psychological lexicon than as a site for cultural analysis. When two adult sisters bicker over who will inherit their father's armchair, the chair does not so much exemplify consumerism or psychic decay, but how hostilities can come to center on one object. This psychological emphasis is exemplified when one of the characters, a therapist-turned-chairologist, implores her patients, "Remember the chairs of your past and then let them go so we can experience new furniture."