At the System M Caffe Gallery, they serve a cheeseburger with feta --which is about as far from a real cheeseburger as Kent Hawkins' "Monday in America" is from either real theater or even performance art.
Hawkins does make a disclaimer in the program: that he has eliminated "standard dramatic devices such as plot, climax and irony . . . this is not a drama!" Hawkins, who also directed the piece, should have left some of those ingredients in.
The production by the Sisyphus Theatre Ensemble is a series of scenes showing husband Steve and wife Jennifer on vacation at various locales around the world. In each scene, the dialogue concerns itself solely with Ugly American Tourist Steve's rants about how things are really better in good ol' Los Angeles, even with its rampant crime. The final scene has Steve back home, driving to work on a smoggy L.A. freeway on a typical "Monday in America."
There is little to interest the viewer in this work, outside of the competent performances of Gale Oliver as Steve, Sherry Cunningham as Jennifer and Ernie Castelo as various characters they meet en route. Oliver and Cunningham even manage not to look too bored during long scenes when their recorded thoughts are played as they stare into space.
True, it is "not a drama." It is a pretentious, boring, unrewarding experience--and an embarrassing one, as most of the action takes place at and around the club's tables. During a gratuitous skyjacker sequence, author/director Hawkins--yes, he gets into the act too--even pulls a couple of customers from their seats onto the floor. At a recent performance, before he pretended to kill one with a toy gun, Hawkins asked if the patron was enjoying the show. It's doubtful.
* "Monday in America," System M Caffe Gallery, 213-A Pine Ave., Long Beach. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 14. $5. (310) 986-0436. Running time: 2 hours. Gale Oliver: Steve
Sherry Cunningham; Jennifer
Ernie Castelo: Mohammed, Ishihara, Pub Brawler, Hostage, Waiter
A Sisyphus Theatre Ensemble production, written and directed by Kent Hawkins. Sound design: Kent Hawkins. Stage manager: Kent Hawkins. Slides and lights: Tom Lavecchia.