“Animals Out Of Paper”
2843 Washington Blvd.
Cleveland, Heights, Ohio
Through October 20, 2013
We all begin as a fresh piece of paper ready to be shaped by the origami that we call life. Each experience that we have (be it good or bad) adds another fold until we become the creations that we are, complete with our imperfections. Once a fold has been made, it cannot be undone, but new folds can be added to lessen the damage of the bad. Some people experience more bad folds then others and some less but we all end up in the shapes governed by what life has given us.
This is the premise of “Animals Out Of Paper” now playing at the Ensemble Theatre in Cleveland Heights. This play is a perfect example of what I call “Intellectual Theater”. It is a play that is designed to make you think. Over the course of the evening (if you are paying attention) you will find yourself thinking about your own life and how decisions and experiences have shaped you into what you are today. You may even realize that no matter what shape you are currently in you can (with much care and effort) unfold your life and redo it to what you truly desire.
The three member cast is made up of Katherine Deboer* as Ilana (an origami artist of world repute), Goeff Knox as Andy (a high school teacher infatuated with Ilana) who is trying to help a brilliant student “find himself” and Andrew Samtoy as Suresh (the student who dazzles everyone with his absolutely pure intelligence).
Ilana has dropped out of the world and is living on Chinese takeout in her trash strewn windowless studio loft after separating from her husband and losing her 12 year old three legged, toothless and earless Sheppard mix who has run away. She is considered the top of her field in origami and has received a grant to do a fold on a mesh material that will be used in HeartNet Therapy to treat patients suffering from enlarged hearts. The trouble is that since her double loss she has not folded a single thing.
Andy is the treasurer of American Origami Magazine, a bad “folder” and a high school math teacher who became infatuated with Ilana during an AO convention workshop. He has stopped by at Ilana’s loft on a rainy day to drop off some articles, collect some overdue dues (that he has already paid) to check up on Ilana and to try to talk her into being a tutor and mentor for one of his students who is a math genius and budding origami great.
When Andy was twelve years old he read a fortune cookie that told him “Count Your Blessings”. He has done that ever since, carefully writing each blessing down in a notebook (the blessings now number over 7,000). They document his excitement of “bought a great rake” to his equally exciting “fell in love today”. It is how he deals with good news, excitement, pain and sorrow. No matter what it is it’s a blessing and goes in the book. If the pain becomes too great he fibs the entry. It is how he copes with life. Andy is an unmarried man-child who has never had to deal with life since he has his notebook. He is sweet and naïve but wholly unprepared for a serious romantic relationship.
Suresh is an unqualified mathematical genius who is at a crossroads in life. He lost his mother to a hit and run driver last year and must care for his sister and father. Suresh listens to hip-hop and rap to free his mind from conventional thinking patterns thus allowing him to create unique answers to complex math problems. Suresh is an enigma. He is a neat freak who spends a day cleaning and organizing Iliana’s studio without her permission, then in the same breath talks about “free-styling” in order to solve complex problems. Most of all, Suresh is (despite his brilliant mind) just a typical teenager suffering from that most common of teen ailments known to all parents of teens as “angst”. He is quick to anger when not in a smoldering dark mood. He sees his gift more as a curse that garners attention that he neither has sought nor desired. Because of his brilliance he is bored most of the time except when truly challenged, which is seldom.
Over the course of the play, Andy’s pie-eye optimism and good cheer begins to pull Ilana back into the world. Through Andy, she is able to see that perhaps the world is not as bad as she thought and her humor returns. With Andy being exposed to Ilana’s “reality check” method of dealing with life he is able to mature and learn to cope with rather than disguise life’s woes. Suresh also begins to grow past his teen problems and discovers stirrings of love that are beginning to manifest themselves.
This is where the play seems to fall apart at the end. While in Japan for a World Origami Convention, Ilana and Suresh have a brief kissing episode in his hotel room followed by falling asleep and waking up together in the same bed (without having sex). In the confrontational scene back at the loft Andy finds out about the inadvertent tryst and storms out, Suresh leaves in a state of confusion and Ilana takes a piece of paper and makes a single fold in it. Basically the audience must write an ending in their own minds. It’s a shame we couldn’t borrow Andy’s “Blessing Book” to see what he put down on this one.
For the most part, “Animals Out Of Paper” is a well thought out drama that carries a good message, but like life it has its flaws. For one, the use of frequent pauses in the action drags the play to a halt. What may seem like a split second to the actors on stage is in reality much too long a pause for the audience to sit through. Suresh’s outbursts need to be toned down just a bit. He needs to be more seething than vocal. On the plus side, the pairing of two experience actors (Katherine Deboer* and Geoff Knox) with newcomer Andrew Samtoy is brilliant. The trio has meshed well and put on an admirable performance.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association
The set is rather ingeniously built. There is the sliding red loft door that is set high on the stage, a small wet sink/fridge set-up, a desk and chair work station, a square ottoman and a couch with coffee table. During the switch to the Japanese hotel room the couch is split in two and become chairs and the coffee table becomes a support for a pull out bed. Equal multi use of props is used in transferring the stage to a restaurant scene. It was fun to watch the transformation and the simplicity.
Prude Alert: There is the F Bomb, the B Bomb and a reference to a sexual act. On the plus side, there is no nudity and the profanity is brief.
Shooting From the Lip (My Last Words): “Animals Out Of Paper” at Ensemble Theatre is a good example of “Intellectual Theater” that challenges us to think. The only shortcoming is in the ending which allows us “the audience” to “think” our own conclusion to the play. If you like to use your imagination, see this one.
“Animals Out Of Paper” is being produced by Ensemble Theatre and is playing through October 20, 2013 at The Coventry Building located at 2843 Washington Blvd. in Cleveland Heights. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
For Subscription and Ticket Information, please call the Ensemble Theatre Box Office at 216.321.2930.
You can purchase online by visiting our website at:
www.ensemble-theatre.org. Click on the “Box Office” link.
You can also email Ensemble Theatre at:
firstname.lastname@example.org (single tickets)