Trey Lyford – The Accountant

accountant

The takeaways

  • Stunning visual experience, from intricate physicality to magical theatrical effects
  • Clever references to Krapp’s Last Tape but ideologically slight overall
  • Have we seen this before? Are we learning something new?

 

In my pockets

I worked on Krapp’s Last Tape in college and so have some familiarity with the source material, and with Beckett’s oeuvre. I attended the final, sold-out performance of The Accountant in the middle of a rainstorm. 

 

Design

Lights: Robin Stamey’s lighting design was what the play needed. Fluorescent lights dominate the stage, accented by sickly greens that round out the drabness of the Accountant’s limited existence, and create a feeling of dankness on Eric Novak’s otherwise pristinely designed set. I was struck by the alluring lavender light swelling through the space when the outside world broke through.

Sound & Music/Composition: Cole Kamen-Green’s original music–a muted trumpet, some kind of electronic device, and live mixing–blend with Lyford’s own manipulations of fluorescence and hold music to create a swelling, searing score. Kamen-Green’s orchestrations are particularly impressive, elegantly transforming from a mind-numbing drone into a Romantic, light-hearted tune and back as Lyford’s Accountant reminisces about life outside of work.

Costumes: Tara Webb’s costumes are simple and pinpoint-accurate. Lyford’s drab suit blends into the world around him, foreshadowing his climactic transformation. Bass’s crisp blue suit connects him to the grey-green world of Lyford’s office while clearly marking him as something of status. And Holum-Lyford’s orange frock distinguishes her as something outside of this place–something warm, and maybe unattainable in the confines of Lyford’s prison.

Set/props: Meticulously drab, meticulously cramped with paper, meticulously designed to become off-kilter. But where Eric Novak shines is his kinetics design. His kinetic effects are fascinating–a banana you eat that has a wadded ball of paper inside! Pouring hot water into a cup that becomes upturned and produces only sugar! Unfortunately they’re so magical against a piece that lacks cerebral stimulation, so rather than these oddities being immersed in the world, I caught myself wondering how these objects were made.

Fight Choreography: Movement in this piece is everything you would expect from Trey Lyford. Specific and compelling, the piece contains everything from quiet vaudevillian clowning to gorgeous contemporary dance to brutal brawl.

 

Performances:

Trey Lyford is a professional. He navigates the stage and his own body with complete ease and control; his emotional range is endless. Meanwhile, capitalism itself is embodied by Ben Bass. He struts around alternatively grinning, sneering, barking, and howling. Bass is completely committed to this stereotype, and his physical work–snapping in and out of contorted, violent posturings–adds edge and complexity.

Coralie Holum Lyford doesn’t have much to do, but her presence is so starkly different from Lyford and Bass’s that it becomes notable–both her physical stature (a small girl) and her fresh, non-performative actions on stage. Watching Lyford play off of her is rich.

 

Direction/creation:

FringeArts’ tagline for the piece–“When you take stock, does it all add up?”–is appropriate. A middle-aged man is trapped in a purgatory of tax forms, fluorescent lights, and hold music. His torture is punctuated by absurdity, and wonder. Gorgeous as the production looks, as a message, The Accountant isn’t saying anything necessarily new. The program tells us this is inspired by “the disorientation that death can bring into our lives,” but the ideas confronting us were much less subtle: money is nothing without love, capitalism is crushing us, what matters are people not products.

 

Accountability

Production-wise, The Accountant is stunning. It’s theatrical, it’s visually lush, the performances are absolutely incredible (I will be thinking about Bass’s contorted masculinity dance for a long time). But as a piece of contemporary theatre, this new play feels strangely dated. In many ways, I was reminded of popular depictions of 80s economic angst – the working man downtrodden, longing to reconnect to his family, ultimately corrupted by the ravages of greed. These themes are never not urgent in a world where we have to work to live, even as that work compromises our lives. But the economic woes of a mid-level bureaucratic employee are woes we’ve seen before, and capitalism’s woeful reach is wide. It’s unrealistic to expect art to be all things to all people, but, if we can separate the content from the form, The Accountant gives us well-worn lessons from experiences that apply to only some people.

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