A playful exchange on public display
By Sarah Norris
This avant-garde production, by the Foundry Theatre, Rotozaza and producer Thomas Sullivan, demands the audiences full attention, because its you whos on stage the stage in this case being the Veselka diner. The $20 tickets are sold in pairs, and its recommended that you arrive with a friend, or someone in whose company you wont mind looking a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, being forced to act out a performance piece in a crowded diner makes for an excellent icebreaker. I did it with a stranger, and afterward I felt like I knew him much better than I would have if left to circuitous small talk.
You and your partner of choice arrive at the showtime youve reserved, sit on opposite sides of a table decorated with tiny props, and put on headsets playing different scripts one is for the man, the other for the woman, but feel free to shake things up. This whole thing is play, in the truest sense of the word. The recorded voice in your ears explains a number of various situations and roles, cueing lines for you to say, and actions to take, from arching an eyebrow to sprinkling water over your partners hand as he or she feigns sleep. One scene entails using tiny plastic figurines to act out a dramatic break-up; another requires that the woman, temporarily playing a prostitute, ask the stranger across from her if hell buy her a drink, and what hes reading.
Etiquette offers a half-hour of recess for adults. Its interesting to notice the self-consciousness one feels in such a situation, and then to get over it and have fun. Of all the reasons to love the East Village, this production exemplifies two. One is the fresh reminder that people are up to so many unexpected projects. The second, of course, is that even while youre wearing headphones, clapping loudly, and pretending to cry, the woman at the next table will not bother to glance up from her cabbage.