“This morning I woke up in the gaping, spinning hole of momentum,” begins Geoffrey Decas, the first actor to speak in CollaborationTown’s latest piece, The Momentum, a playful exploration of the self-help genre that takes New Agey wisdom in the vein of The Secret and spins it in the direction of late-night TV.
The piece, which began its life in 2010’s New York International Fringe Festival and took home the Best Play prize, is a small-scale, meditative piece that has the distinction of straddling humor and pathos. Particularly helpful in this regard is a talented cast of three – Geoffrey Decas, Boo Killebrew, and Jordan Seavey – who manage to skirt the line between irony and sincerity with aplomb.
The Momentum, which was written by performers Killebrew, Decas, and Seavey, alongside off-stage co-creator TJ Witham, is largely free-form. Beginning with a spectacularly funny, almost nonsensical monologue delivered by Decas, The Momentum gains its momentum as it proceeds, picking up theatrical pace and gaining complexity as it races toward its conclusion.
Monologues are interspersed with choric moments, wherein the performers speak mantras or convey larger themes. Also included are an almost Beckettian movement sequence involving the placement of (and enjoyment of) chairs and a number of other occasionally comedic group scenes in which the idea of momentum is demonstrated.
Beginning with O’Donnell’s opening monologue, the overarching theme of the play is introduced – namely the momentum of our lives and how we embrace and reject that momentum. As we move through our daily routines, O’Donnell tells us, we learn to “go with the flow, downstream,” interrupted by a variety of roadblocks. The rest of the play breaks down the platitudes inherent in our everyday lives. What’s at the core of the greeting card mantras we tell ourselves? How can we overcome pain? How do we make sense of our romantic and social failings?
The Momentum, at its core, carries the potential to fall into two traps – using irony as a way to turn self-help into a too-easy target or allowing the reverse to occur by injecting the proceedings with too much in the way of melodrama. Thankfully, the piece avoids both by a hair. Even when our central trio’s monologues begin treading familiar territory, their second-person tenses as they describe a series of break-ups and their ensuing loneliness endear us to them even further.
Of note in this latest production is that the Laurie Beechman is a less-than-ideal home for such a contemplative piece. The Beechman, typically a venue for cabaret or stand-up (Joan Rivers is a regular performer), seems to swallow up The Momentum with its clinking glasses and rustling napkins, but the piece shines nevertheless. Whether there’s momentum in the play after this current production and several upcoming showings in Boston remains to be seen. It’s certainly a piece with a niche audience but one that offers sizable rewards to those willing to stare into the gaping hole.