The Long Call — Gangsters, Showgirls, Primatology and Recovery

Leaving the life of the American demimonde for anthropology, survivor guilt and Asian primates is a wild ride for Holly, the ex-showgirl turned wannabe ape rescuer. This detailed reading of Jenn Griffin’s play, The Long Call, directed by Heidi Taylor, IS a wild ride. Funny at times, touching, a little bit menacing—who is Jack, what does he really want, and how is this going to end? I found it really fascinating to be witness to the process of developing this play, as reportedly the actors had only finished a cold-reading, and sound design was ongoing improvisation during this performance.

The one part of the work that I hoped would be more integrated into the story was the inclusion of a dancer, who at times seemed to be the orang-utan, playing dress-up, donning masks, wandering through the space that the other performers were busy using. I didn’t find this too distracting, but felt that there was still work to do in order to progress the story. It certainly broke out of the linear narrative, even chronologically questionable, and made me wonder if I was seeing a vision of our protagonist’s guilt playing out. Certainly an interesting work in progress, and predominantly entertaining. I will be interested in catching up with this work when it gets closer to full production.

Having the actors flipping through their scripts was not at all distracting to me, as I am endlessly fascinated with seasoned talent exploring and developing their understanding and interpretation of the material, but I can imagine that this might confuse many audience members. Luckily the performers gave nuanced and thoughtful voice to the characters, producing appropriate and authentic responses from the audience. It will be very interesting to see the genesis of this project, and hopefully the public will be delighted as it moves on to critical and popular acclaim. A commendable work in progress.

By Bruce M. Campbell