Theatergoers who blenched at the subject matter of Edward Albee’s 2002 play The Goat; or, Who Is Silvia? will have a slightly easier time if they attend Inanimate, Nick Robideau’s play that opens the Flea’s new home on Thomas Street in Tribeca—but not by much. Robideau's subject matter parallels that of Albee, who wrote about a man in love with a goat. While Albee’s play is grounded in naturalism—the outlandishness of the premise contrasts with the upheaval of an otherwise normal family life—Robideau takes a different and less successful tack, embracing absurdism for a sexual disorder that is already at the fringes of credibility.
There is an immense amount of ambition on stage at 13th Street Repertory Theatre right now, where Judson Blake’s Perversion, directed by the author, recently began performances. The play, an absurdist anti-war jeremiad, embodies that plucky, can-do spirit that has animated downtown theater since the Provincetown Players invaded MacDougal Street 100 years ago. That a group of independent artists have gathered in a 65-seater in the basement of a mid-19th-century Village brownstone to tell an original political story in this Wicked theatrical world is cause for celebration. That the resulting work is so wrong-headed on nearly every level is merely a sobering reminder that ambition without craft is simply hubris.
The Fourth Street Theater is currently unrecognizable, as the theater company known as Semiotic Root has transformed the space into an intimate storytelling café—the sort found in North Africa. A patchwork of Persian carpets covers every inch of the floor, and hanging lanterns cast a warm glow across the carved wooden tables and plush floor cushions. The scent of strong coffee wafts through the air, and audience members are invited to help themselves to a cup. The setting is for playwright Betty Shamieh’s The Strangest, an absurdist murder mystery inspired by the unnamed Arab killed in Albert Camus’ classic novel, The Stranger, which is an emblem of mid-20th-century French existentialism.