A smart company and an inventive production team hit their stride with “The Downtown Loop” at 3LD Art and Technology Center.
Set in the streets of 21st Century Manhattan, “The Downtown Loop” takes the audience on a virtual bus tour evoking nostalgia for what may or may not have been. Day in, day out, a Tour Guide leads a double-decker bus tour through Manhattan below 59th St., filled with his excitements and disappointments.
Ben Gassman has written a meticulous script. In it, gentrification, economic revitalization and the ceaseless buzzing activity that keeps Manhattan on the leading edge is explored through the eyes of the people the City leaves behind.
The company features performers interested in bringing cutting edge work to creative spaces. Greg Carere, Keelie A. Sheridan, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Mia Jessup, Robert Metz, Sam Soghur and Hakan Tolga Polat are glad to blend in with the audience throughout the show. In chatting with audience members, the performers seek to clarify why New York is the unique, inspiring, and sometimes troubling City that it is. As they tell their personal stories, the players in their 20s and the middle-aged actors who portray the hot dog vendor and the souvenir salesmen are compelling. Improvisation, in addition to the script, never seems shoddy or out of place in the production.
Direction by Meghan Finn is clever and strong. The monologues to the audience are as effective as the more candid scenes that explore love, loss, and desire in New York City. Finn, who has directed projects at PS122, Dixon Place, and HERE, is careful to find nuance in each moment of the play. She treats the script as a jumping off point, and builds a world that is full of humor, tension, and heartache. Production elements are detailed and cohesive. Details like actual free hot dogs available from a hot dog stand are noticed.
Video design by Jared Mezzocchi is striking and inventive. Images of the City are colorful and bold. The floor to ceiling surround video does make it seem that you are actually traveling on the bus tour through New York. The video is more realistic than expressionistic, however there are departures from the basic action of the play where the large video screens feature aqua to green fades and bright yellow blurs. Stop-motion photography is featured in other sequences.
This and other interactive attempts are quite successful, and make this a rare, impressive evening in the theater. The co-producer, 3 Legged Dog, exists to produce new, original works in theater, performance, dance, media and hybrid forms. 3 Legged Dog’s mission is to explore narrative possibilities created by digital technology. They seek to provide an environment for our artists to create new tools and modes of expression so that they can excel across a range of disciplines.
“The Downtown Loop” is running until Saturday, November 16th at 3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street, at Rector, in downtown Manhattan. It is located two and a half blocks below the WTC site. Tickets are available by calling Ovationtix at 866-811-4111. For more information, visit www.3ldnyc.org.