Buzzer Makes for High Tension

 

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Review by Sandi Durell

 

Neighborhoods change, people change . . . some things that are deep within the fabric of the mind and soul don’t change, even to those who think they’re enlightened. Buzzer, by Tracey Scott Wilson, and directed by Anne Kauffman at the Public Theater, gives a birds-eye view into the inner workings of three people in a story about race, real estate and betrayal.

Jackson (Grantham Coleman), a black male from a bad neighborhood in Brooklyn, went to Exeter and Harvard and is now a successful attorney with a white girlfriend Suzy (Tessa Ferrer). His old neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and he’s returned, buying a newly renovated apartment and asking Suzy to move in with him. She does and shortly after, his old chum Don (a rich white guy with whom he went to school – Michael Stahl-David) comes calling. Once again, Don is down on his luck, an ex-druggie and alcoholic with no place to go. He knows that Jackson is always there for him and, after some bickering between Jackson and Suzy, Don moves right in. A month, 6 months, a year . . . who knows!

Peppered with some humorous dialog, Don inserts himself into their lives with a sense of entitlement that he’s now part of their family as Suzy does all she can to put up with him until circumstances change them. When some street guys start taunting her, making sexual remarks, causing her a great sense of discomfort,  her fear buttons are pressed to the max and it’s Don she turns to because she’s embarrassed to discuss this with Jackson. As the door buzzer keeps going off (but only works one way), her fear reactions rise to new levels as she begins to express just how uncomfortable she is living in this neighborhood.

Some unexpected relationship changes befall, as Don tries to solve Suzy’s problems in more ways than one until Jackson becomes suspicious as lies prevail and lives are forever altered.

Racial slurs and outbursts bring them all to a new awareness level. The damage is done as these three people realize they’re not who they thought they were as tensions rise and hurtful words are spoken that can’t be retracted.

The ensemble actors are strong, vibrant and pervasive as the friction grows, leading up to an explosive conclusion albeit the storyline challenges believability.

Brett J. Diggs as Brian, rounds out the cast.

The action takes place on a practically bare stage (until some furniture is brought in) with narrow walls to one side in a peek-a-boo effect through which one can see a glimpse of a hallway, a kitchen, giving rise to a larger apartment and a back wall that slides open to reveal an entrance door and hallway to the building (well thought out set design by Laura Jellinek).

There are some sound issues perhaps because of the cavernous stage and high ceiling in the Martinson Theater sometimes making it difficult to understand all the dialog or maybe they’re just talking over one another more than necessary.

*Photos: Joan Marcus

Buzzer opens April 8th and runs thru April 26th. www.publictheater.org 212 967-7555

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