LA Review: 'An Incident at the Border'

Transatlantic Theatre Company at the Edgemar Center for the Arts

Reviewed by Travis Michael Holder

August 07, 2012


Photo by Tracy Woodward
Despite the cast's lack of English accents, there's something quintessentially British lurking below the surface of Kieran Lynn's absurdist comedy "Incident at the Border," which introduces to our side of the Atlantic this imaginative Brit's darkly twisted slant on both international and interpersonal 21st-century connections.

On Joel Daavid's smartly simple park set, lovers Olivia (Jennifer Robyn Jacobs) and Arthur (Hank Ostendorf) sit on a bench feeding the feathered denizens of the local pond, an idyllic breather from their romantic walk that soon prompts the dissatisfied Arthur to proclaim, "I want to be a duck." It doesn't take long to surmise that this is a relationship in peril, especially when Olivia begins to reply to his fantasy and Arthur cuts her off, telling her he doesn't want any opinions overshadowing their peaceful liaison in the great outdoors. Their conversation becomes anything but undisturbed, however, when a lumbering border guard (Christopher Frontiero) enters with a roll of adhesive tape, politely pardons himself, and lays a line of tape directly across the center of the bench—smack-dab between Olivia and Arthur.

The guard has no idea why he has been instructed to suddenly relocate the country's border, an act that forces him to keep Arthur from crossing back, first with the help of a stun gun and finally with a whole offstage army. The guard is just, as he says, following orders from someone, though he has no idea who inhabits the voice crackling through his walkie-talkie. He could have let Arthur relocate to Olivia's side before making him a man without a country and inducing the threat of an international incident, but he had some fudge in his pocket and wanted to get to it before it melted.

Understanding and not overworking Lynn's dryly English sense of humor is essential here, and director Tracy Woodward educes two notable and one serviceable performance from his players. The likable Jacobs appears to understand Olivia and her situation intellectually but does not match the believability or ease with the difficult dialogue that has been mastered by her co-stars, rolling her eyes dramatically and occasionally answering scripted questions before the others have finished asking them.

Ostendorf is perfectly in sync with the playwright, deftly using his uniquely quirky body language and ability to adopt a Stan Laurel deadpan expression to create a richly woebegone but feisty character with whom we easily sympathize. Frontiero is his textbook foil, such a latter-day Oliver Hardy that one can only hope that these two impressive and committed actors continue to work together in the future, possibly in another play by the promising Lynn.

Presented by the Transatlantic Theatre Company at the Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. Aug. 4–Sept. 9. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m. (310) 392-7327 or www.edgemarcenter.org.
 

 
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