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Losing Something

The technical wizardry in 3-Legged Dog's latest show is far superior to the acting.

A scene from Losing Something
(© Allison Keating)
A man stands on stage, talking to his older self, who appears right next to him. Both parts are played by the same actor. How is this possible? The answer is new technology called Eyeliner, a high definition video projection system that allows for convincing 3D moving images. In 3-Legged Dog Media & Theater Group's latest show, Losing Something, such technical wizardry accounts for some eye-popping special effects. Unfortunately, the same level of quality and innovation doesn't apply to the acting.

Written, directed, and designed by 3LD's artistic director Kevin Cunningham, the play would seem to be ideally suited to the Eyeliner technology, which makes its American stage debut with this production. The work deals with the shifting and unreliable nature of memory and dreams, as the central character -- identified in the script only as X (Aldo Perez) -- is visited by ghosts from his past, as well as visions of his future self. He is overcome by a feeling of loss, tied directly to his witnessing of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and the subsequent death of his best friend Daniel (Michael Bell), who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center only to later commit suicide.

As X speaks, three-dimensional video images appear all around him. He interacts with many of them, talking with various characters who sometimes float ethereally in the air or emerge from a bizarre mesh-like environment. A recurring motif is the image of rapidly falling bodies, an obvious visual referent to the World Trade Center victims who jumped rather than be consumed by flames in the falling towers. In one of the show's most arresting moments, one of these bodies stops abruptly at ground level as a sickening thud is heard over the speakers. It's Daniel, whose neck appears twisted at an odd angle, and who speaks to X from beyond the grave.

Cunningham -- along with video designer Jeff Morey, sound designer Sean Hagerty, production & costume designer Allison M. Keating, and lighting designer David Tirosh -- should be commended for their technical prowess. The illusions they create are very convincing, indeed. However, special effects only go so far.

Perez delivers the bulk of his speeches in a flat tone that indicates his character's emotional states without inhabiting them. Even when he raises his voice in moments of anger or frustration, there's no genuine passion involved; he also has a tendency to gesture frequently with no apparent motivation for the movement.

As Daniel, Bell comes across only slightly better. He intones his lines as if by rote, and relies heavily on the technological special effects to make his performance interesting, rather than making it so through anything that he himself does. Rounding out the cast are a trio of female performers -- Victoria Chamberlin, Livia De Paolis, and Catherine Yeager -- who also fail to distinguish themselves.

The abstract, detached quality of these performances may be a conscious decision on Cunningham's part, but it makes for dull theater. Although the production is only about an hour long, all around me I saw audience members glancing at their watches, impatient for the show to end.

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