“Buzzer” is a drama that hinges on the teetering relationship of a mixed-race couple in a not-quite-gentrified neighborhood. The heightened state of emotions played out on stage stem from racial and sexual tension.
One of the most interesting parts of the play was the set. A nail salon is next to a discount variety store which is by a grocery store. There’s a lottery spot in the corner and a large Chinese restaurant—these flashing signs all help set the mood and give some perspective on the kind of area in which the story is being told. It’s lively and it’s chaotic.
The elegant chandelier and extravagant French doors, right smack dab in the middle of everything else are a definite contrast. The doors and chandelier are part of the couple’s new apartment. This arrangement worked. What didn’t work was seeing members of the audience sitting on either side of the stage.
There were times when I felt that I was more focused on the audience’s reactions to certain scenes rather than what the actors were actually saying. It was also annoying because there were a few empty rows of seats facing the stage in front that could’ve easily been occupied by members of the audience on stage. Maybe if the seating was different, there would’ve been room for more props. Take the invisible washer/dryer machine for example. This appliance was mentioned as an awesome feature of the new apartment, but instead of seeing them, the actors jumped for joy and pointed excitedly at instead of nothing.
Although the set design was lacking, the sound system made up for it all. Sound designer Mikhail Fiksel did a fantastic job of creating a realistic portrayal of the kind of neighborhood that never sleeps. We constantly hear some type of noise whether it be screaming, cursing, or crazy partying with rap music blasting in the apartment next door.
Now, to the play itself: in the first act of “Buzzer”, we are introduced to the central couple, Jackson (played by Eric Lynch) and Suzy (played by Lee Stark). Jackson is a young successful African-American man with a degree from Harvard Law and holds a well-established job as an attorney. Suzy, on the other hand, finds her job working as a teacher at an inner city school not only exhausting but, at times, unbearable being the one blonde teacher no one takes very seriously. After a difficult day of teaching, Jackson surprises Suzy with news that they will be moving to a new part of town because of his work. The new apartment is everything they could have dreamed of and more. The only catch is that an old friend named Don must stay with them— a drunk, homeless drug-addict who can only mean trouble.
This first scene opens with Jackson, Suzy, and Don each giving a monologue. The only problem is that each character’s dialogue seems to clash with one another, and it’s hard to understand what anyone is saying because each character’s dialogue. Fortunately, everything starts to make sense once the characters really begin living under one roof. It’s at this point that the play really comes together in a more flowing, natural style that allows the real storyline with its spicy gossip to unfold.
Wilson has crafted a marvelous play, playing up the comedic elements throughout the dramatic action, allowing us to invest emotionally in her characters. There are many instances where a tense moment will occur but the characters “undercut” their emotions with jokes. Although the characters see the jokes as a way of dealing with the severity of the situation, when violence breaks out, the jokes serve as comic relief in moments of despair.