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    Bobrauschenbergamerica Brings the Bizarre and the Best to Stony Brook

    If there is one reason Staller’s ‘bobrauschenbergamerica’ is a treat for the eye, it is the crazy ensemble that graces the stage this week for a whole 120 minutes.’

    The second in a series of this year’s Long Island Play Projects, ‘bobrauschenbergamerica’ was preceded by ‘Trestle at Pope Lick Creek.’

    While ‘Trestle’ was a play in its own right and was received particularly well by a student body that may have never studied depression, ‘bobrauschenbergamerica’ was an entirely different rush of images.

    Staller’s Chair and Artistic Director, Nick Mangano, called the play a ‘raucous and invigorating mosaic.’ Based on Robert Rauschenberg’s innovative artwork of the 1950s, the play manages to stimulate our minds to perceive art, culture and life in general on a different plane. Charles L. Mee’s work literally brings slices of life to the stage with short segments containing a multitude of characters.

    For those who are tired of the good old play that brings complications and conflicts to an end in a climax, which resolves for the happily ever after, here is something profoundly new.

    There is no storyline. There are text and performance art pieces. There are also songs and dances (even to the ever-indulging ‘Freak Out’). Characters walk into the audience, talk from the theater railing above them and make the most unpredictable entrances and exits.

    Eleven actors come together in vignettes for a synergistic whole. There is a trucker, Phil, (Josh Schubart), and his bathing beauty (Katelyn Gleason). There is on- and off-couple of Susan (Jilian Cross) and Wilson (Andy Lucien). Rauschenberg’s mother (Deborah Mayo), a homeless man Becker (Eric webb), the gay couple of Carl (Matt McMahan) and Allen (Alex Geissbuhler) are joined by the deranged Pizza Boy (Dan O’Reilly), a DJ (Chris Tricarico) and a Roller Girl (Amanda Marschall).

    The play surprises in the most bizarre and unpredictable ways. A whole 15-minute segment is devoted to Phil and his bathing beauty body-surfing on martini off a plastic floor. The trucker recites chicken jokes (some of the funniest I have heard in a while) while a dead Allen lies dead next to him, as others mourn his departure.

    Yet, everything makes sense in the end. Whether it is Susan’s consumption of an entire cake while venting on Becker, or Allen’s bathroom singing, the actors pull of a comedy with a message quite deceptively. It is their skill and the crew’s expert lightning (Jeanette Yew), costume (Laura Archer) and set (Madeleine Bernatchez) that pulls off the fragmented play into a most endearing production.

    Some central elements do shine. When Carl muses about artists, competing with the deafening sound of vacuums and hammers. The instance when Becker overarches the audience on a charade almost summarizing the play also comes through. Interestingly, the vignette that struck a chord in the audience is Becker’s intricate movie plot on a conspiracy involving cereal.

    Never has the Stony Brook community relished and puzzled over a play as much as ‘bobrauschenbergamerica.’ Never has a collage of images evoked such laughter and reflection. The play was truly a revelation in what SBU’s budding artists are capable of and most significantly, of SBU to garner and harbor talents from both inside and outside this community.

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