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NICK & JEREMY, more devise theatre at Cleveland Public Theatre

Roy Berko

(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)

What happens when two friends, Nick Riley, a drummer and performer, and Jeremy Paul, a director and actor, meet over a number of months to talk “stuff?”  Of course, they create a devised theatre piece, combining interactions, vinyl, drumming and audience interplay, and name the proceedings NICK & JEREMY.  Then, they make arrangements to have it staged at Cleveland Public Theatre, the home of theatrical invention and innovation.

This is not your traditional theatrical production.  This world premiere staging is in the Storefront Studio theatre, a black box space, with a thrust stage, that used to house a bookstore.

When you enter, you are greeted by the actors who engage you in conversations based on questions they ask you and you ask them.

Finally, when they are in the right mood, the duo sits down at a small table, have some coffee, and proceed to talk, occasionally getting up and putting various records on an old fashioned turntable, play the drums, go to a podium, do some shtick, and return to the table for some more talk.

The subjects they discuss range from whether one should wear a hat in the theatre, to whether the red dot on the floor under the table is supposed to be Mars, to foundational psychology, the operation of the brain, the sense of self, enlightenism, the consciousness of reality, drugs, dreams, magic, demons, the disappearance of the universe with only this room and the people in it remaining, whether the “I” is really the “Me,” writing a letter to oneself as a youth at age 80, suspended disbelief, situational intentionalism, commitment, and whether, in fact, everything that the audience is hearing is really only taking place in their individual heads.  The vignettes finally come to a halt when the audience is taken on a personal guided imagery.  Well, at least that is where it should have ended.  The tacked on after-the fact ending added little.

Sound obtuse, too intellectual?  That depends on the listener.  If you hang around coffee shops and play mind games, or you participated in all nighters in college based on what was discussed, or should have been discussed, in philosophy class, or you are addicted to probing for the beyond, you’ll feel right at home.  You’ll really want to walk onto the stage, which is no more than five feet away from anyone in the theatre, and take part.

In fact, lots of people swarmed around the actors after the performance to continue the dialogue.  Others walked out, got in their cars, and pondered the meaning of life as they drove home with their heads full of random thoughts, asking, “What in Hades did I just see and hear?”

Capsule judgement: NICK AND JEREMY is an electric kool-aid acid trip, minus the drugs, which would make Timothy Leary, the proponent of the use of psychedelic substances and believer in” tune on, tune in, drop out,” very happy.  It should be of great interest to deep or pseudo-deep thinkers.

NICK & JEREMY runs from March 29-April 13, 2013 at Cleveland Public Theatre.  For tickets call 216-631-2727 or go on line to