Theater For The New City is a home for experimental and ambitious theater. It is fitting that Arnold Schulman’s “Sign in the Six O’Clock Sky; A Fable With Songs” is currently playing there. The new play is aspirational, captivating but ultimately flawed. It is as if the author stood before a restaurant chef’s cooktop with many delicious stews and pots on the range, then took a scoop from lots of the vessels and put them all in a large bowl before the audience. While each recipe may be delicious, by putting so many disparate scoops in one bowl, the flavor is muddled and discordant.
The playwright has a long and distinguished career in film and stage and is still an active presence at 94 years of age. Good on him. But the play is so full of tropes, cliches and ideas that it never settles on a style or approach. It starts in 1933 focused on a lost troupe of circus performers seeking a way out of a mysterious island. You can see where this is heading as a contemporary CEO and WWII D-Day soldier show up, both uncertain how they get there and confused how to get out. Wherever can they be? The work is reminiscent in style to plays at the height of the theatre absurd movement.
But tossed into the meal are depression style songs by Dan Furman. All fine, some picking up known themes and others entirely original. But they only to further confuse the palate. Tech credits are first rate, especially in a budget limited production. The performers are all excellent (I came to see Michael Giorgio who has worked in a previous production of mine, he was predictably talented).
But this work needs lots of editing and focusing and decision making. It feels like a very raw draft that needs to find its way to find its audience. It plays till the end of the month, see original challenging theater to make your own decisions.