Review: Confusing ‘Patterns’ does not lack boldness

Amy Munz performs her one-woman show "Patterns - For Some Reason it Really Tickled Me" in The City through Aug. 16th. (Amy Munz photo)
Amy Munz performs her one-woman show “Patterns – For Some Reason it Really Tickled Me” in The City through Aug. 16th. (Amy Munz photo)

The images are bold and bright, yet subtle and dark. One wall features an image of wind that whips through the heartland, while an old man stands in the forefront, staring. The image is understated, yet powerful. Love, loss and indelible moments burst from the bare stage, save a chair, a book, and a quirky young lady who bounces around with frenetic, boundless energy.

Some of the most poignant moments in “Patterns – For Some Reason it Really Tickled Me,” in a world premiere in San Francisco’s Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion, are the stillness of the play. The subtlety, the descriptions of love and powerful images on screens that take up three sides of the performance space are things that work well, and often play nicely with each other.

However, the piece suffers from a lack of clarity, and something that feels entirely too isolating. Much of the writing, which is extremely smart, is also entirely confusing at moments, and seems to lose focus from one moment to the next.

Amy Munz, who wrote and performs the piece for her fledgling theatre company The New Stage, is not lacking in bold vision. As a student at Northwestern University, she worked with Henry Godinez, a longtime member of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, which boasts a stable of world-renowned directors. Godinez went on to direct this piece, and while there are certainly moments that completely work, other moments leave the audience in a bit of disarray.

There are images that work very well together. Take a discussion of childhood that Munz had. While she spoke, on one side of the screen was an image of a girl taking roller skating lessons in one of those dank, impersonal skating rinks of the ‘80’s (Goodbye San Jose Skate, we will miss you. But I digress). On the other side was a young girl taking piano lessons, providing a lovely soundtrack for the skating.

It is moments like these that give the piece hope. The video certainly dominates the piece, as it should. Munz’ video does not just simply establish a location, but supplements many of her quirky anecdotes. There is a multitude of non-stop media that comes at you. Old stock footage of boxing matches, chess matches, dogs, and people young and old. And Munz works the stage with nice pacing, understanding along with her director the power of silence, which was effective when it needed to be.

In the piece, Munz also plays five other characters, yet this is problematic. Her differentiation of these characters was not always fluid, so there were certainly moments where it was difficult to decipher who was who.

It certainly feels as if there are a lot of issues the play seems to deal with. And there is not always clarity as to what the play is really getting at. Certainly, how an audience member feels is at the discretion of the beholder. But sometimes when a play tries to deal with so many feelings, other feelings become muddled or lost.

This effort by Munz may not have always worked, but there is much to admire about it as well. Munz is a young woman carving out a bold mission. She wrote the show, shot and collected the footage, and is also building a theatre for her company, which she founded. While I may not have loved the show, I certainly love and admire the artist Munz is striving to become.

WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO

The New Stage presents “Patterns – For Some Reason it Really Tickled Me”
Created and performed by Amy Munz
Directed by Henry Godinez
The Word: The piece suffers from confusion, but it is bold nonetheless.
Stars: 3 out of 5
One hour and 45 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission
July 16th – Aug. 16th
Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion
66 Page St., San Francisco, CA
Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion
66 Page St. San Francisco, CA
Through August 16, 2014.
$30
For tickets, call (800) 838-3006, ext. 1 or visit www.thenewstage.com

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