Alena Smith's smart play, The New Sincerity, in its world premiere at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, is perhaps the first drama to deal with the idealism of the Occupy Movement. Championed for its revolutionary goals, Occupy opened a dialogue about the ills of capitalism and social injustice. Many came to Zuccotti Park to camp out in support, like Django, one of four characters in The New Sincerity, expertly directed by Bob Balaban, who keeps the flow of characters in and out of the offices of a literary journal brisk for its 85-minute duration. Keep your eye on the word "sincerity" of the title, a playful take on the currency of authenticity.
Arriving at the offices of Asymptote Magazine, mainly to brush his teeth after a three-week break from hygiene, Django (Peter Mark Kendall) wants to "pleasure" Rose (Justine Lupe), a featured writer, but then again everyone including her boss, Asymptote's editor, Benjamin (Teddy Bergman) seems to want her, even though he's engaged to someone else. Meantime, an artist who built a boat out of garbage, and in his red and black checked shirt, the J. Crew version of hipster, Django turns out to be a self-invention, his call to action shallow, before the high-minded Asymptote trades in on the commodification of this revolution.
Clever and edgy, Smith's satiric dialogue with references to our Internet-altered ethos, evokes movements of the past, making the '60's anti-war protests look antique, its ideals meeting just as hollow an end. Rose, a Gwyneth Paltrow look alike, retains our sympathies. "When it comes to love, I am not an anarchist," she says drawing a line. Natasha (Elvy Yost), an intern, sees her as a role model but even she says, "No one wants to hear about the death of the left." Rose echoes our ambivalence about real anarchy. But the play goes farther on the role of women: "The experience of being underappreciated has got to be worth something." It's a funny line that the poet Joan Larkin back in the day might have deemed, "only a fishbone in the throat of the revolution" if some change had really taken place. Or, in this play's parlance, "The park is empty and cold like nothing ever happened." With The New Sincerity, the Bay Street Theater season is off to a great start.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.