A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not all of them are true. "I Am a Camera," conceived by director Greg Allen and written by performers Jeremy Sher and Caitlin Stainken, aims to explore the ways that photographs work, and the ways that people react to them. The explorations are frequently fascinating, funny and even moving. But too many go on for too long, and by the end it's not clear what the show's point is.
For instance: near the start of the show, Sher comes out, and a voice tells him to smile. He plasters on a fake grin as a song starts, and he attempts to maintain the expression, with increasing strain and distress, for the duration. Afterwards, Stainken comes on and does the exact same thing, again for the entirety of the song. It's a clever idea — who hasn’t suffered in trying to maintain an unnatural grin for a photo, and come off looking grotesque? But stretched to such a length it isn't really funny anymore, and the point is severely belabored.
Other segments are more effective; a sequence where the actors take pictures of audience members is delightful, and one using pieces of paper as miniature projection screens for sections of larger photos was simply beautiful. Even the sequences that don't work as well give something provocative to see or think about. But they don't really build to a conclusion. Maybe that was the intention — a series of explorations that don't really lead to an answer — but it still feels a little disappointing.
But even if the end is disappointing, the play is full of lovely moments. Sher and Stainken give honest and involving performances, and technical designers Peter Sebastian and Evelyn DeHais create some real magic onstage. There's plenty worth seeing, it just doesn't cohere into a complete picture.
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