Bar, New Year Project, at the O'Bar and Cafe. Chad Beguelin's comedy about feelings of isolation among twentysomethings in a neighborhood bar is sprightly and diverting, but it's virtually impossible to feel a connection with any of his characters. Though Beguelin speaks out against impersonal encounters and vacuous conversation and skewers his generation as a "truckload of liars," what impresses most about his writing is its dishonesty.
The ten characters who inhabit Beguelin's unnamed bar are largely sitcom cartoons: a Kate Moss wanna-be, a third-rate ice skater, a nerdy accountant, a pompous intellectual who mispronounces "Jung" and butchers French, a vacant Don Juan, a groin-grabbing hood, a gum-snapping smart-ass, a pair of yuppies experimenting with lesbianism, and a timid bartender who wants to chuck it all and move to Switzerland. Focus shifts quickly from table to table via lighting changes and goofy disco music, and the play seems stuck in second gear as conversations revolve around easy laugh lines instead of plot. Things improve in the second act when Beguelin reveals his characters' dreams and inner turmoil, but here he falls victim to sappy sermonizing: one lost and lonely character steps up on a bar stool to decry computers, virtual reality, and the fact that "no one can connect with each other anymore."
This is a drag because Beguelin's writing is sporadically witty and charming. And the talented young members of the newly formed New Year Project, under the direction of Lotti Pharriss, play this overextended series of comic sketches with flair. Unfortunately their characters bear only the slightest resemblance to anyone you'd ever meet in a bar.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Megan Moore.