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      That Damn Dykstra (the boxed set)
    Outside the boxed set

    Playwright Brian Dykstra promotes himself with a short-play collection humorously called "That Damn Dykstra (the boxed set)," and fortunately he has the comedic chops to justify it.


    It helps to be deceased, like Benny Goodman, or defunct, like Led Zeppelin, or decrepit, like the Rolling Stones, before you get your own boxed set. But playwright Brian Dykstra has found another way — find a little venue and put on your own greatest-hits compilation while you're still around and don't need a bottle of geritol to get through it.

    Written by: Brian Dykstra.
    Directed by: Margarett Perry.
    Cast: Cynthia Babak, Sarah Baker, Matthew Boston, Brian Dykstra, Patrick Frederic, Vickie Tanner.
    Access Theatre
    380 Broadway at White St.
    Previews start: Feb. 6, 2003
    Feb. 10-22, 2003

    If this were Miles Davis The Boxed Set, you'd have an amazingly eclectic mix going from bebop to cool to fusion to funk, many brilliant, all creatively inspired and each in a different way. "That Damn Dykstra (the boxed set)" also contains a number of very different grooves — from poetry-slam verse to veiled social satire to Seinfeld-esque short plays seemingly about nothing.

    My favorite piece of the evening was "Service/Order," about an office in which a blazer-wearing security man is informing mid-level employees that the stairs are out of service. How can the stairs be out of order, a woman asks. They're not out of order, they're out of service. And why are they out of service if they're not out of order, she asks. I can tell you but you're not going to like it, he warns her.

    Turns out the stairs are out of service because the elevators are out of order. That sets off a chain reaction in which the executives upstairs, denied an executive elevator, have ordered security to secure the employee stairs for their exclusive use for the duration of the elevator problem. Into this surreal premise walks a male middle manager, who sees nothing strange about it. One day he hopes to be one of the execs upstairs and be able to order the stairs closed to mid-level riffraff too. It's a sly commentary on corporate climbing and class in America, all wrapped up in a seeming nonsequitur about stairs and elevators. Very funny and very much on target.

    There are two hip-hoppy monologues — one about a tight-assed mythical queen who needs a good shag and the other about our current American politics, which come to think of it is basically about a tight-assed mythical president who needs a good shag. Attired in cool shades and chic red overcoat, Dykstra spins wildly imaginative rhymes with an unpredictable sensibility. And there's a self-referential dialogue in which actor Patrick Frederic insists he's going to sabotage the scene by refusing to say his lines properly but Dykstra spars with him playfully by pulling the strings of theater convention. He's the writer, after all.

    The eight pieces are splendidly acted by the cast of six, which is impressive when you consider their wide range. If that damn Dykstra doesn't wind up deceased or defunct in the next few years, perhaps we can expect The Boxed Set II someday.

    MARCH 6, 2003

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