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In the theater, as in the real world, things are rarely exactly what they seem to be. Such is the case in Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Theater's second production, "Goose and Tom-Tom." The play is basically a bizarre and surrealistic trip through the power struggles between two best friends, their lovers and one of their lover's brothers. Like the caricatures that Tom-Tom, one of the main characters, draws and tapes up throughout the show, the play itself sketches some of the numerous fears and fantasies we all hold deep inside.
The play itself is rather disappointing in that the story line is vague, the obscenities and sex are a bit gratuitous, and the central theme is hazy. But each of the five actors gives a tremendous performance, and most of the play's symbolism, however obscure, makes for a fascinating and even haunting production.
Everything starts when Goose (Eric Amblad) runs into his best friend Tom-Tom (Michael Lopez-Saenz). The two cuss at each other, gleefully plan to use their new guns on someone, and discuss how Goose thinks he's a frog and Tom-Tom fears he's haunted by witches. They also joke about kidnapping Bingo's sister so Goose can have sex with her. Enter Loraine (Jordanna Brodsky), Tom-Tom's petite and insane lover who has both men so wrapped around her fingers that they let her put pins into their voodoo dolls' arms to prove their manliness to her. Later, after suspecting them of stealing her jewels, Loraine seduces Goose in front of Tom-Tom, who pretends not to care. As if things weren't bizarre enough, Lulu (Jennifer Neale), Bingo's sister whom Goose apparently did kidnap, walks out of the closet, gives a powerful speech about how she will lead everyone to salvation, and punctuates it with a meek request for a glass of water.
The second act of "Goose and Tom-Tom" is just as odd as the first. Bingo (Jesse Hawkes) wanders in looking for his lost sister, whom he is rumored to be sleeping with too. In a "Reservoir Dogs"-type violence-fest, Goose and Tom-Tom beat Bin-go into near oblivion, trying to get him to confess to stealing Lorraine's jewels, which he eventually does. Lorraine then orders Goose to kill him. After giving Bingo one last chance to see his sister, Goose leads him outside to be shot. Shots are heard, and the stage plunges into darkness. Though the voices of Goose, Tom-Tom and Lulu can be heard, whether or not they are still alive remains unanswered.
Goose and Tom-Tom are by far the most realistic characters in the show. Goose is played with the same enthusiastic and endearing stupidity--but none of the goofy "Hee-Haw" type humor--that Amblad brought to last spring's "As You Like It." Lopez-Saenz gives an equally powerful performance as the darker, more haunted Tom-Tom. The camaraderie between the two actors, though bumbling and vulgarity-drenched, is excellent and rarely found in Harvard theater.
Brodsky also gives an excellent performance, though her maniacal passion grows a bit thin at times. But she does manage to convince the audience that though she is violently insane--or perhaps, because she is--the men in the show are still extremely attracted to her. The character of Bingo does not give Hawkes, usually a fantastic performer, much breadth to work with, but he still manages to give a vibrant, though quickly broken, spirit to a potentially lifeless character.
One of the most memorable characters of the entire show, however, has to be Neale's Lulu. Although Lulu herself spends most of the play looking forlorn in the background of the stage, her few lines--a deft mixture of church-revival-type monologues and cute childish comments--almost speak for themselves. The strength and sweet simplicity Neale lends to the character make one almost believe that this over-sexed, yet helpless-looking character may very well save everyone in the show.
Although many of the themes in "Goose and Tom-Tom" may be difficult to appreciate fully, the overall symbolism and the intriguing individual performances in the show make it worthwhile. (Incidentally, everyone in the production should be applauded for working in the unbelievably hot and stuffy conditions of the Loeb X.) This production will probably not go down in Harvard dramatic history, but it has certainly left its own unconventional mark.
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