In ‘Ding Dong It’s the Ocean,’ Seas Rise and a Party Crashes

Posted May 27, 2018 8:45 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — There’s a moment in the middle of a party: You’ve had a drink — maybe three. You’ve forgotten the time and several inhibitions. The music pulses like a second heart. The night, you think, could go anywhere.

“Ding Dong It’s the Ocean,” created by husband-and-husband collective Rady & Bloom and staged at Jack in Brooklyn and co-produced by Here, is set at a birthday party. The night goes nowhere. That’s probably the point.

The party is by and for Jeremy (Jacob Perkins), the leader of a struggling theater company. He’s invited a dozen friends and colleagues over for an evening of Moscow Mules and lasagna. Nothing really goes according to plan, though planning isn’t one of playwright Alex Borinsky’s big concerns.

The party follows a five-minute “mackerel opera” by a rival company. (I first heard that as “macro opera,” but no, those are definitely fish.) It features wet suits and milk and a melody called “Lover’s Frolic” and probably exists to make the rest of “Ding Dong” seem scintillating by comparison.

It doesn’t entirely work. The party scene is intended as a kind of gift, however poorly wrapped, but the acting often falters and the shots taken at the Brooklyn creative class are mostly cheap ones. “I’m gonna go in the bedroom and lead a meditation,” one character says while they wait for eats. “And anyone who wants to come meditate with me should feel very free. Yes?”

The play, directed by Jeremy Bloom with painted banners by Brian Rady, is probably a metaphor for theater or life or global warming. If you too are a young artist just trying to scrape together enough funding to keep going, it could feel violently necessary or just indulgent.

The piece resembles early, less rigorous works by devised theater troupes like the Debate Society and the Mad Ones, who would eventually produce splendid stuff. In these early shows, the companies had created worlds, invented characters, written reams of dialogue. It seemed rude to ask for anything more. Like a story. Or a reason to care.

In “Ding Dong,” the most dramatic event happens offstage and it involves that lasagna. (Don’t get too attached.) I’d lay good money that this lack of action is deliberate, prompted by Anton Chekhov’s 1889 claim that “in real life people don’t spend every minute shooting at each other, hanging themselves and making confessions of love.” Instead, they eat, they drink, they make lame jokes, and theater has a duty to show this. “I hear humans are 75 percent tidbit,” one partygoer says. So stop whining about plot and pass the salsa.

“Ding Dong” also suggests that in the face of world-historical events, chiefly climate change, nothing that happens in one evening at one outer-borough birthday party can possibly matter and it would be weird to pretend otherwise. “The age of stories with protagonists is over,” says Sasha Masha (Robert Dowling), the company’s resident playwright. “In the face of global warming, none of us are protagonists.”

Sasha Masha spends most of the rest of the play in the bathroom, presumably wasting water.

Event Information:

‘Ding Dong It’s the Ocean’

Through Sunday at Jack in Brooklyn; jackny.org. Run time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.