Company One should hand out plot summaries at the beginning of each performance of “1001.”
Without them, the tales that comprise this convoluted reinvention of “1001 Nights” get lost in the struggling production’s chaos, rendering the whole experience little more than theatrical channel-surfing.
The story-within-a-story framework of “1001” falters early and often as the ensemble stumbles in a seemingly directionless fashion in and out of tales that traverse centuries, continents and cultures.
Though rife with potential humor, the production misses nearly every opportunity to provide some much-needed laughter. When a One-Eyed Arab, an obviously fake disembodied limb and excruciating overuse of “Law & Order”-inspired sound effects don’t elicit a snicker or groan from the audience, lack of comic timing isn’t the only issue.
The actors seem unfocused and lacking confidence in both the piece and the direction. With performances that range from over-emoting buffoonery to near inertia, clearly director Megan Sandberg-Zakian is so busy working on the heavy-handed message that she’s overlooked the requisite details to getting there.
The big, barren set gets in the way of the storytelling as the actors busily rearrange ottoman pieces while moving from one story to the next. Smarter, smoother transitions might have made Sinbad’s line at the top of Act II less ironic: “It all starts to run together after awhile.”
Even the curtain call feels lackluster and a bit disingenuous.