Other Plays

The PositionIce Factory
Monkey Wrench Theater/Ice Factory Festival, New York, 1997

Texas Radio
The Present Company, 1998

The Installation
The New York International Fringe Festival, 1999
Solen Productions/Manhattan Theatre Source, New York, 2001

How to Entertain the Rich
The New York International Fringe Festival, 1999

psychohaiku, or The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The New York International Fringe Festival, 1999

A Place Like This
The Present Company, New York, 2000

How to Go
Solen Productions/Manhattan Theatre Source, New York, 2001

Red
Solen Productions/Manhattan Theatre Source, New York, 2001

A Message from Marjorie
Charm Offensive/Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (staged reading), London, 2003

The Revolution
Charm Offensive/Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (staged reading), London, 2003

REVIEWS
A Place Like This, the new play by C.J. Hopkins at The Present Company, begins with its ten cast members drifting slowly onto the barren Theatorium stage, one at a time, silently and solemnly. For the next hour or so, they will wander, sylphlike, around the space, often settling uneasily into chairs but never really in repose, never looking at each other and never quite looking at us: they’re like restless specters from some theatrical netherworld, purposefully but mournfully consigned to teach us, like so many Marley’s Ghosts, about ourselves. Frank Rich said that Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, whose ghostly Ziegfeld showgirls are recalled here, was “the last musical”; in the same way, A Place Like This feels very much like the last play. The first–what?–movement of A Place Like This reminds us of the C.J. Hopkins we know from Horse Country and other works: a sardonic, funny harangue about who we are and where we are, ontological rumination disguised as playful shtick that makes us laugh but also, ever so subtly, disarms, maybe even dislodges us. The ten people on stage, whoever they are, keep talking about what they’re going to do and what they’re not going to do. They keep alluding to an unspecified moment when they’re going to start doing and not doing, but it never comes. Fine: we’ve seen Godot; we’ve read our Artaud: we know where we are. And then, suddenly, we’re somewhere else. Essentially, we’re in a Place like That, the alternative to the Place like This (i.e., where we’re actually sitting). That Place is the sanitized, sterile world of the Shopping Mall, beachhead of millennial American life, captured to perfection by Hopkins in all its gross, colorful colorlessness:

Those little fountain areas.
All that chrome.
All those little colored lights reflecting off those walls of glass.
And all that metal.
And all those people.
Walking around.
In a happy daze.
Almost sleepwalking.
Like in a haze.
And it was nice, really. Wasn’t it?

And then, swiftly and without warning, we’re back to a Place like This: this very Place, in fact; which is to say a theatre, this theatre, where we and ten ghosts are witnesses to this, possibly last, play. The sorrowful valedictory of this final movement of A Place Like This is heartbreaking, conjuring thousands of general and specific memories and images of the vital essence of theatrical experience with brilliantly evocative and economical language. With breathtaking, startling, painful clarity, Hopkins reminds us of “what could be done here….and can still happen.” If it at all sounds hopelessly abstract or precious, then that’s my fault: A Place Like This is emphatically none of those things. It’s a raw, emotional, powerhouse of theatre, the sort of experience that builds and builds until you think you’re going to explode. It’s densely packed, not only with the main thematic thread that I’ve followed here, but with savagely ripe reflections on subjects ranging from consumerism to popular culture to the fundamental nature of social organization. It’s kept me up part of both nights since I’ve seen it, which is perhaps not the most remuneratory recommendation for a play but, for me, says everything about how essential and compelling A Place Like This turns out be. Hopkins serves as his own director on this piece, and his staging is taut and intelligent. His writing is, if anything, more specific and more vivid than it’s ever been: pieces of A Place Like This sound like poetry–music, even: as clearly and resoundingly emotive as aria, sometimes. The ten actors who perform A Place Like This are Frederick Backus, Dan Berkey, Rachael Biernat, Nicole Higgins, Dan Hope, Frank Anthony Polito, Emmanuella Souffrant, Eva van Dok, Kate Ward, and Malachi Weir, and they are as cohesive and dedicated an ensemble as you’re likely to see anywhere. (That said, I would be remiss not to make special mention of the incredible and incomparable Dan Berkey, whose every moment on stage reflects, with thundering intensity, the galvanizing themes of this play.) A Place Like This is, then, either a wake or a wake-up call for people who care about theatre. It confirms C.J. Hopkins’s place in the pantheon on emerging new theatre writers. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen; and it absolutely demands to be seen. NYTHEATRE.COM

Five nameless women and five nameless men gather on stage, sit down in a half-circle, and start talking. And that’s all that happens in this off-kilter but intriguing play — the lines are chopped up, scattered randomly among the performers, and tossed out into the semicircle. Lines overlap, each a twist on or repetition of or response to the one before it, perhaps more like the thoughts in your head than a real conversation. Is this going somewhere, you wonder to yourself — all the more after 20 or 30 minutes in which the actors repeatedly inform the audience what they don’t intend to do in the course of the play. They don’t plan to provoke or challenge the audience, just entertain a little with some standard sitcom or Broadway-type fare. “Any minute now we’re going to start banging out the jokes,” one assures us. “Yes, any minute now we are going to start just banging out the bits,” another agrees. Of course, they never get around to just banging out the jokes. This group meditation turns into a personal intervention aimed at an old friend (actually an empty chair) named “George” (who could just as well be you, the viewer) who refuses to unquestioningly accept mainstream middle-class suburban values. At first, the use of 10 actors seems like just a gimmick to liven up what would otherwise be a long monologue. But as the confrontation between the 10 friends and “George” develops, they begin to look a little different, like a kind of collective unconscious, their words representing all the common beliefs that a person inherits from the surrounding society. This effect would never have been achieved by one actor in a monologue. Most of what we hear from the chorus of 10 is platitudinous, sensible-sounding and fundamentally misguided, always pressuring the individual to give up his individuality and conform to the group. And why turn your back on a life that offers you so much — a lovely house, a luxury automobile, your choice of goods at the mall? People have so many opportunities in life, like “plastic pieces moving across a paper board,” one person says, and she means that as a good thing. “That’s the freedom we have,” another adds. After a while, the overlapping voices of “A Place Like This” begin to wash over the audience like waves onto the beach, one after another, and the hypnotic effect they create is itself part of the point of this unusual but interesting experience. OFF OFF OFF

C.J. Hopkins’ A Place Like This is a fiercely committed, maddeningly static, inexplicably invigorating re-assertion of the unique powers of live theater. Joining the dialogue initiated by Pirandello and continued by Handke, Hopkins takes the deconstruction of the drama one step further as he denudes it, fucks it, and then finally remystifies it. Followers of the playwright’s work know that his powers are acute. His Horse Country was an infuriatingly elliptical, biliously comic romp into post-Beckett absurdism. This time around, he’s concocted something akin to a choral essay. A shared monologue performed by a cast of 10, A Place Like This eschews character and linear logic as Hopkins strives to manifest the collective unconscious. But his depiction of shared subjectivity – insidiously tainted by societal conditioning – has as much to do with Orwell’s group-think as it does with Jung’s purer conception of the mind. From the opening words – in which the cast recite, one by one, a litany of negated expectations and deceptively simple promises in regards to what’s to come – Hopkins is out to give the illusion of a performance devoid of sham. … The playwright, who makes his directorial debut here, keeps the physical action to a minimum … Hopkins’ unbearably cute asides, coy profanity and endless repetition may be exacerbated, but his text infiltrates the mind even as it irritates and alienates. Slowly, you find yourself riding his train of thought inside your own head. This uncanny ability to invade the thinking process permits Hopkins to guide your reflections. His critiques of the self, conformity, consumerism – often referencing an unseen everyman named George – become yours as well. But even when talking about the mallification of America or the nature of freedom, Hopkins remains true and devoted to his central metaphor: theater. His topical digressions prove merely tangential; they’re a series of concentric circles. The essence of the theater is the core. While some of the performers can’t quite shed the actorly impulse, those who do (Eva Van Dok, Kate Ward) usher us toward the sense of commune to which Hopkins slyly alluded at the start. Does that sound too esoteric for you? It might be. If you’re a hardier theatergoer, you’ll find his efforts are well worth yours. CITYSEARCH (NYC)

La réflexion sociale imprègne égalment l’éctriture nerveuese et drôle du jeune auteur américain CJ Hopkins. Trois pièces courtes sont à peine croquées dans une mise en place de Joshua Goldberg tandis que Horse Country est présenté de maniere plus aboutie avec une mise en scène de John Clancy, l’un des cofondateurs du festival. Ces textes, dans les deux cas, sont servis par de três belles interprétations. On n’oubliera pas de sitôt la précision gogueunarde des ourvirs de L’installation dont on ne sait trop quel engin vicleux ils branchment, d’autant que ces mecs sont jourés avec une ironique ambiguité par deux femmes, Renée Buciarelli et Rebecca Wisocky.  LE SOIR

I had heard a lot of good things about the plays of C.J. Hopkins, but I had never gotten around to seeing any of them until On the Clock. This program of three stunning short one-acts by Mr. Hopkins is, I think, a splendid introduction to his work. Sharply written with intelligence and a blisteringly honest point of view, these pieces engage our intellect even as they assault our complacency. They call into question not only our values and our beliefs but also the very nature of the theatre experience itself. Masterfully manipulative and remarkably powerful, On the Clock does exactly what great theatre should: it shakes us up, makes us think, and reminds us that we’re alive. On the Clock opens with the deceptively affable How to Entertain the Rich. Six people, presumably actors, line up across the stage and discuss, among themselves but obviously for the audience’s edification and enjoyment, how to entertain the rich. You see the self-referential nature of this: they are entertaining the rich (i.e., us) by talking about how to entertain the rich; grab hold of this concept and you’re well on your way to grasping Mr. Hopkins’s meaning. The third play of the evening, titled The Installation, is similarly recursive: two actors portraying technicians of some sort–cable TV installers, perhaps?–tell the audience about what they do. What they do, they say, is provide their customers with the means to accomplish something, [some] apparatus that enables people to divine some sort of meaning out of the signals and noise that surround them. Maybe they are just talking about hooking up a cable box, but I think their message is deeper. They’re talking about themselves, actors in a play, and they’re talking about us, in the audience, who have a choice as to whether we allow ourselves to be engaged by–perhaps even changed by–what we witness here. Sandwiched in between these two very brief, utterly charming, entirely disarming pieces is the evening’s main event, a disturbing contemporary horror story called Psychohaiku, or The Light at the End of the Tunnel. It’s about two men waiting late one Sunday night for a subway train. When one of them–a well-dressed, seemingly respectable, apparently upper-class man–starts to behave in unusual ways, he gets the other’s–and our–attention. Having won that, he proceeds to demolish much of what we understand about civilized behavior, in the process demonstrating that the kind of success that he and others like him achieve and respect comes precisely at the expense of so-called civility. Psychohaiku is clearly intended to be socio-political criticism. But it’s scary not so much in its depiction of an amoral capitalist monster inhabiting Manhattan in 1999. No, its power comes from the shocked reaction of the other man, the innocent victim. Or rather, the lack of reaction, because he finds himself entirely unable to understand what is happening to him, and entirely incapable of defending himself. Tension compounds as we wonder whether he finally will do something. And if, in his place, we would. In Pyschohaiku, Mr. Hopkins commits not only assault on his audience but also battery: the cheerful passivity that we arrived at the theatre with has been bullied right out of our systems. … Without indulging in any kind of audience participation tactics, these plays engage us: they remind us that we’re experiencing something with these actors, and that together, maybe, we’ll find something meaningful in that experience. I don’t know about you, but that’s precisely the reason I go to the theatre. … [D]irector Joshua Goldberg has served Mr. Hopkins well. The actors are all fine, especially the two women who perform The Installation, Renee Bucciarelli and Rebecca Wisocky. … Echoes of Brecht and Beckett and the avant-garde movements of the late ’60s are apparent in these plays, but Mr. Hopkins’s voice is uniquely his own. NYTHEATRE.COM