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"Blackout" at Theatre Row's Kirk Theatre
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"Blackout" at Theatre Row's Kirk Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

The Cell Theatre Company Presents
(Blackout Website)
At the
Kirk Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

A New Play by Michael I. Walker
Original Story by Kevin Quinn and Michael I. Walker
Directed by Kira Simring

Ryan Patrick Bachand as Collin
Almeria Campbell as Lena
Kevin Mambo as Fitz
Teddy Bergman as Alex
Kate Goehring as Maggie
Darnell Williams as Levi

Press: Shane Marshall Brown/The Pete Sanders Group

Production Design: Gabriel Hainer Evansohn
Costumes: Kristine Koury
Co- Lighting: Carl Faber
Sound: Travis Walker
Casting: Michael Cassara Casting
Marketing: Wren Longno
Production Stage Manager: Fran Rubenstein
Production Manager: Mary E. Leach
Technical Director: Tyler L. Hall

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 19, 2007

This production, about the August, 2003 blackout, was enormously reminiscent, as I live in Hell’s Kitchen/Lincoln Center and had actually photographed the blackout that fateful night, in the same Ninth Avenue neighborhood in which this play is set. The characters in Cell Theatre Company’s presentation meet by happenstance, at the door of a well-known local restaurant-bar, and some prove more believable and accessible than others. Maybe this is the “reality” effect that Kevin Quinn and Michael I. Walker are trying to achieve. It’s dark, people bump into each other in a frightened lonely state, some being New Yorkers, who are used to traveling solo, and two, a Southerner, who’s on an adventurous search for self, and a traveling American, who prefers the looseness of anonymity in foreign lands. As it develops, each character relates to each of the other characters, in friendship, lust, rejection, anger, self-righteousness, jealousy, and dependency, all within this tight time frame of the one-day blackout.

Collin (Ryan Patrick Bachand) is a bisexual vulture, who uses sex for free housing, food, and power. When satiated, he moves on. He seduces and stays with Lena (Almeria Campbell), a businesswoman, who is vulnerable, yet rechargeable, as she gathers her wits and puts Collin back into the street. Collin, a resourceful and seasoned seducer, finds his way to Alex (Teddy Bergman), a gay writer for Seventeen magazine, who creates teen girls’ sex questions. Alex has just lost his new roommate, Maggie (Kate Goehring), the Southern Baptist who quotes James Baldwin as her bible. Meanwhile, Lena seems to be trying to get real-time attention from Fitz, the restaurant-bar owner, a sax player on the mend, who seems lonelier than he admits. The fifth stray character is Levi (Darnell Williams), a homeless and angry man, who wears baggy old clothes, a woolen cap, and screams so much, that Maggie decides he’s evoking Baldwin.

Alex was one of my favorite characters, adorable in mannerisms, and yearning for closeness. This blackout seemed to give him the opening to reach out to strangers. My other favorite character was Fitz, who actually played his sax in soulful serenity. His story should have unfolded in deeper discussions. He seemed to house a textured persona. Collin was dreadfully annoying, cold and calculating, and anything but seductive. Lena had edge, looks, and a revealing state of mind. Yet, her blatant hostility and fear of closeness was her worst enemy. When she walked into Fitz’ bar, second act, her dress was daring and bare. But, nothing seemed to happen. Perhaps that was also due to Fitz’ fear of rejection, and so on, if we had been offered more insight.

Maggie was shrill, in her excellent Southern accent and manner, very touristy, but soon “well-worn” West Side. She was kind-hearted and ingénue, but in a Hell’s Kitchen blackout, her preachiness was as outsized as was Levi’s. Levi was one of those men, whom we all saw, on the night of the blackout of 2003, directing traffic, finding a necessary role, a way to relate, that gave him new meaning, a raison d’ètre. Levi’s character just kept going on and on, as the voice of conscience, philosophizing about the wrongs of society and its prejudices. Yet, when offered friendship, even food, he wandered into his thoughts, his hat, his sidewalk, his private world. Maybe he’s everyman, in some ways, the urban souls who protect their anonymity and celebrate their aloneness. Or, maybe he’s the outsider, the outcast, seeking refuge in his psychological island.

Before or after the show, for brunch, lunch, dinner, or just dessert and drinks, visit Jack’s, on West 40th Street, between 7th Avenue and Broadway, and ask for Larry. Jack’s is a warm, inviting Irish bistro with an international menu served with Irish hospitality. Tonight, my guest and I dined on hot tapas, such as steamed mussels and crab cakes (cell phone photos below). Tell them you saw them on

The cast of BLACKOUT
Photo courtesy of Serge Nivelle

Almeria Campbell and Kate Goehring
Photo courtesy of Serge Nivelle

Almeria Campbell and Kevin Mambo
Photo courtesy of Jesse Chan-Norris

Kevin Mambo and Kate Goehring
Photo courtesy of Jesse Chan-Norris

Teddy Bergman and Kevin Mambo
Photo courtesy of Jesse Chan-Norris

Crab Cakes, Steamed Vegetable Dumplings, Grilled Portobello Mushrooms at Jack's
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Steamed Mussels with Spicy Tomato Broth at Jack's
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at