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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. And we take the opportunity to explore other vintage productions preserved online. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.

Tracy Jones
The Bechdel Group and YouTube  Autumn 2021

Stephen Kaplan's play was scheduled for a stage production by New York's Bechdel Group in 2020 but has instead been released online in a Zoom Theatre (i.e., with actors in separate locations performing to their computer cameras and appearing in separate windows on our screens) version.

It is an amiable comedy with touches of pathos or, if you prefer, drama with laughs that winds up nowhere particularly new but holds your interest and amusement along the way.

Vasthy Mompoint plays what we might call Tracy Jones Number One. In an attempt to make friends and clarify her own sense of identity she has invited every other Tracy Jones she could find in the telephone book to a party.

(The British comedian Dave Gorman did something similar twenty-five years ago, meeting dozens of other Dave Gormans and throwing a party at which he provided each with a 'Hi! My name is. . ..' badge. Kaplan borrows that gag as well as the concept.)

The venue is one of those chain restaurants that force jollity down your throat with the chicken wings, and the first part of the play has Tracy comically being courtesy-bombed by a frighteningly perky teenage waitress (Grace Capeless) bubbling over with corporate mottos and health-and-safety regulations.

A couple of guests do eventually arrive, though they are not exactly what our Tracy expected, so that her own over-zealous and inflexible agenda for the event begins almost immediately to fall apart.

People do connect, but not as intended at one point the discovery that the waitress and one guest are Tolkien fans threatens to sideline Tracy #1 into a wallflower at her own party.

There are side journeys, either comic or thought-provoking or both, into smoker-shaming, the rules of party games and why celery goes with buffalo wings.

Almost inevitably, it turns out that our Tracy, along with Tracys 2 and 3 (Sarah Dacey Charles and Brad Oscar) each have their own private lonelinesses and identity issues, and everyone gets to bare their souls a bit, taking some small comfort from the brief connection with the others.

You might not be able to predict each character's revelations, but nothing in them will surprise you, so they become just a bit anticlimactic though the discovery that the young waitress might actually be just as simple, perky and eager to please as she behaves, and therefore might be the healthiest person in the play, is a nice twist.

The fun of this play by which I mean both the comedy and the satisfying insights is to be had along the way, and not in the big reveals of the final scenes.

The Zoom production is well-directed by Ilana Ransom Toeplitz, sustaining the illusion that these people are in the same room.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Tracy Jones - Bechdel Group 2021