THREE WEEKS THE GUARDIAN
THE SCOTSMAN THE LIST METRO
Winner Fringe First Award
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Winner New Hampshire Theatre Award
Best Original Production
A no-holds-barred satire on corporate America about an environmentalist's fight against a toxin-spreading megacorporation. Jackie is being stalked by fast talking lawyers, Cutter and Slate, into allowing her eco-friendly company to be swallowed up by a huge corporation. Dykstra's impassioned characters wage war on each other with the most powerful weapons in their arsenal, words. Loyalties shift, sex, love and political agendas clash. But do words have a chance against all that cash? Dykstra takes on corporate narcissism, the meaning of love, the corruption of politics and the elusiveness of enlightenment in this dark-age of the almighty dollar.
2 Men, 1 Woman
Fresh Ice productions at 59E59 Theaters, Margarett Perry, director
Fresh Ice productions at Assembly Rooms@St. Georges' West, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Margarett Perry, director
Kitchen Theatre Company (Ithaca, NY) Margarett Perry, director
Yellow Taxi Productions (Nashua, NH), Suzanne Delle, Director
The Lark Play Development Center (NYC)
a toxic comedy by Brian Dykstra
"Brian Dykstra wields a monologue like a sword!
PICK OF THE WEEK!
"It's a convenient truth that Brian Dykstra's environmental comedy returns for an
encore run before it heads to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Doubtless powered with alternative energy, the play concerns a corporate monolith called Planet America with a sinister business plan and a bad habit of polluting. Dykstra also stars as Cutter, a cross, malapropistic attorney."
NYC's Off-Broadway hit about an environmentalist's fight against a toxin-spreading megacorporation. Brian Dykstra's signature style crackles as he takes on corporate narcissism, the meaning of love, the corruption of politics and the elusiveness of enlightenment in this dark age of the almighty dollar.
EMILY ACKERMAN MARK BOYETT BRIAN DYKSTRA
“Every second of this play is perfect-I was enthralled from the opening line and could hardly bear to watch the characters leave at the end. Life-changing, revolutionary theatre.”
“At last! A real, grown-up American play! It poses its ethical dilemmas with a fierce intelligence, creating a slippery drama that is full of meat. Something to really chew on.'
“Clean Alternatives is a sharp and witty analysis of how language is manipulated to serve the interests of the powerful.'
“In more than capable hands, Brian Dykstra's rapidfire script never misses a beat. Unafraid to ask difficult questions, he probes the sleazy, double crossing world of corporate America. Superbly punctuated with slam poetry, this production illuminates some shocking truths about large businesses literally buying the right to pollute.'
“Played out against a backdrop of a giant dollar bill, Brian Dykstra's Clean Alternatives is a fast-paced, wonderfully played piece of agitprop about America's environmental record and the corrupting force of big business.'
"Ferociously articulate dialogue
in a hail of David Mamet-ian testosterone speak.
Sharp performances across the board. A fairy tale for our time!"
"Hilarious! Political Satire at its Best!
Brian Dykstra's style is
a winning combination of Lenny Bruce and David Mamet.
The three person cast is rapid fire, word-perfect."
"Satire of a very high order.
Sharp, incisive theater as well as searing political commentary."
"Brian Dykstra is a very funny man. Gifted wordsmith that he is, Dykstra uses language as a powerful weapon send[ing] words bursting through the room like bullets from an invading army's machine guns."
FULL LENGTH REVIEWS & ARTICLES:
August 23, 2006
Fresh Ice productions
Every second of this play is perfect - I was enthralled from the opening line and could hardly bear to watch the characters leave at the end. Two hotshot lawyers, perfectly acted by Mark Boyett, and the playwright himself Brian Dykstra, manipulate a young businesswoman with quick-fire, mind-twisting verbosity. However, we are shown that at least one of these men does have an ounce of humanity, and the intense action and striking satire stem from his pursuit of love literature and life over money. Dykstra skillfully illustrates the "power of the word" through exhilarating beat poetry speeches, amazingly executed by Emily Ackerman, and the dense script subtly touches on a wealth of vital issues. Life-changing, revolutionary theatre.
Assembly@St.George's West, 4-28 Aug, 4:45pm
Played out against a backdrop of a giant dollar bill, Brian Dykstra's Clean Alternatives is a fast-paced, wonderfully played piece of agitprop about America's environmental record and the corrupting force of big business.
Emily Ackerman's Jackie runs a small, environmentally friendly family business that's in danger of going bust. Cue two unlikely saviors in the shape of lawyers Mr Cuter (Brian Dykstra) and Mr Slate (Mark Boyett). Representing their mega-corporation clients, they're her to help, they say.
The catch to the free windfall they're offering is, of course, that there is no catch. Well, cave for the small matter of transferring Jackie's factory's pollution rights, so that the big boys can add her clean record to theirs.
The lawyers' quick-fire exchanges area a treat. 'Why bother saving the planet when you wont' be around to enjoy it?' they argue.
Quite whether Slate's conversion to Jackie's political cause is believable is open to debate. But the debate taking place onstage, however, is all too believable. And chillingly so.
— Alan Chadwick
Posted: Mon., Feb. 20, 2006, 9:00pm PT
(59E59; 57 seats; $35 top)
A Fresh Ice Productions presentation of a play in two acts by Brian Dykstra. Directed by Margarett Perry.
Mister Cutter - Brian Dykstra
Mister Slate - Mark Boyett
Jackie - Sue-Anne Morrow
By MARK BLANKENSHIP
Brian Dykstra, author and co-star of "Clean Alternatives," wields a monologue like a sword. As Mister Cutter, a sinister attorney in this passionate play about environmental politics, he delivers near-arias about everything from the power of corporate America to his brief flirtation with Eastern philosophy. But though his words are well crafted and his thinking clear, it almost doesn't matter what he's saying. The sheer sound of his voice as it rises and falls offers its own visceral reward. Dykstra's work provides the startling immediacy that makes live performance feel so alive.
Blood pumps through every moment of this liberal piece of agitprop. For instance, when Cutter and his partner Slate (Mark Boyett) try to fast-talk businesswoman Jackie (Sue-Ann Morrow) into ceding her eco-friendly company to a corporation looking for a PR boost, they launch their legalese like a missile. Barely breathing between rapid-fire sentences and moving sleekly around their prey, they become stalking beasts.
In the surreal world created by Dykstra and director Margarett Perry, ideological commitment often blurs with primal instinct. When Slate later abandons Cutter and pledges to help Jackie fight for the environment, their liberal passions are clearly sexual. You can feel it in the delicate pauses and nervous line delivery, the near-touches and the adjusting of clothes. Just beneath the tale of corporate corruption, a human story unfolds.
Blending emotion with politics, Dykstra's language lands just outside reality. Characters speak in elaborate metaphors and occasionally stop their business to argue over grammar. Sex and fart jokes whiz by unannounced, and a diatribe about Republican greed evolves into the touching tale of a character's dead nephew.
When these human details burst through the play's intellectual surface, it's easy to lean forward and engage. These environmental woes affect people we can care about.
While they all seem like they're in the same production, each thesp cuts a unique figure. Dykstra maintains the veneer of verbal warrior, but Boyett defines Slate through physical detail. With awkward chuckles and an ever-shifting posture, he gives vulnerability to a character who changes from corporate shill to purposed crusader.
Morrow's comic persona is also apropos, since Jackie augments her work as an exec by writing slam poetry. The actor's loose-limbed approach makes Jackie seem amused with herself as she goes on TV to deliver rhyming rants about how the government must change.
By the time Jackie becomes a televised revolutionary, the production has become a fable in which well-meaning people can make some kind of difference. This is not to say that problems are resolved -- the play is never that simplistic -- but more that hope is honestly gained. Perry's major achievement as director is making room for that hope by coaxing the tone from jargon-heavy mania to contemplative silence.
By the production's finale, even Maruti Evans' set -- which mostly fills the stage with a massive hundred dollar bill -- can be seen as more than a comment on greed. The enormous currency also reflects a simple story that returns with renewed force in the final scene. Metaphors merge there in the settling quiet, and the mechanics of environmental politics become the perfect tool for digging up a deeper kind of truth.
SYRACUSE NEW TIMES
Rapid-fire dialogue fuels the political satire of Clean Alternatives
By James MacKillop
Brian Dykstra, whose Clean Alternatives is making its area premiere at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company, is probably the only young playwright who performs regularly on cable television. On HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, he’s always a strong competitor while being one of the few paler faces in the pack. Reaching smaller, more intense audiences, he’s also a top performer in poetry slams. By tapping into the rambunctious energy of these steamed-up, contemporary popular art forms, Dykstra has produced that rare American drama where the velocity and exhilaration of the dialogue really drive the show.
Two gray-suited corporate hired guns, Cutter (playwright Dykstra) and Slate (Mark Boyett), meet with Jackie (Emily Ackerman), a quiet, red-haired woman who runs a family business making paints and wood stain that is currently losing money. The men want to merge the Planet America Corporation with the mom-and-pop affair because the tiny company’s impressive environmental record, when combined with the conglomerate’s dismal record, will give a total score to the feds that will allow the entire operation to continue spewing tons of poisons in the air. The paradoxically named Clean Air Act not only allows such legerdemain, it encourages it.
The two men do not come straight to the point, a considerable benefit for Clean Alternatives. At first their pitch sounds like two ultra-caffeinated versions of The Music Man’s Harold Hill, probably fraudulent but somehow intoxicating. They are filled with their own self-importance and self-congratulation at their comfy incomes and shared contempt for Jackie’s unnamed money-losing enterprise.
Their pitch is filled with the kind of business metaphors one finds in the pages of Barron’s or Forbes, like “white knights,” “poison pills,” or anything to do with baseball.
The older, taller Cutter, is meaner than the shorter, younger Slate, who might offer a measure of compromise. Yet both try to persuade through contempt:
Slate: “So, please, please, ‘lease, do not offend us with any kind of ‘Not for Sale’ poison-pill posturing.”
Cutter: “Because, truth be told, we don’t want to buy your company.”
Slate: “don’t care if it isn’t for sale.”
Cutter: ”And let us be abundantly clear.”
Slate: “We don’t give a tinker’s damn about you either, pisan.”
Cutter: “Not a hoot.”
Slate: “for all we care you can run out of food stamps, and we wouldn’t cross the street to give you the greasy contents of our mostly empty doggy bags.”
Dykstra’s writing style favors comically placed digressions, like the meaning of the words “farthing’ or “boondoggle.” Yet there’s no denying that their threat is lethal, such as Cutter’s response to Jackie’s reluctance: “You are going to regret this day until the sun collapses on itself, extinguishing the last hint of your stunning ineptitude.” Jackie's long-delayed response to this verbal storm gets its own laugh: “Do you guys ever talk like human beings?”
When it is clear that Jackie is not going for the plan, Cutter goes off in another direction that feels as though we are entering another play. Guilt-ridden, he recalls a fatal boating accident, in which an innocent was dragged overboard, something that might have motivated some pause.
Not entirely signaled by events, however, it is Slate who changes course. Impressed by Jackie’s moral stand. Slate joins forces with her to expose the misdeeds of his former employer. Cutter, more beholden to the corporate forces that allow him to keep three children in private school as well as support a gorgeous Russian mistress, realizes the viciousness of his own chicanery but chooses to stay succumbed to it.
Dykstra knows his quarry, and he never panders to “both sides,” the kind of thing that sinks the Barry Levinson-Robin Williams toothless political satire Man of the Year. Scenic designer Solomon Weisbard keeps this clear with a set feature: a wall-filled blow-up of a Franklin-faced $1000 bill. And all along the way, characters break into lyrical speeches, as if they were in their own poetry slam. One is a parody of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and another a rant against the semantic dishonesty of recent legislation that gave us the Constitution-bending Patriot Act, the tree destroying Healthy Forest Act and the emission-encouraging Clear Skies Act.
For all his partisanship Dykstra is gifted with lines that could play in both red and blue state. “ This is America. I know what’s good for me, but I still like the frosting.”
Clean Alternatives may never get a better production. Dykstra and sidekick Mark Boyett (who appeared in 2002’s Wit at Syracuse Stage) have been with the show through mountings at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it won a Scotsman Fringe First award, and off-Broadway. Despite all that practice, they still sound crisp and spontaneous. Newcomer Emily Ackerman startles and arrests with contrasting rhythm and style. Under the wise guidance of director Margarett Perry, the staging always enhances rather than competes with the dialogue.
Many playwrights have been trying to reinvent the American language on stage, starting with David Mamet, whose Speed-The-Plow (1988) is kind of predecessor to this play. You hear it also in Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. Brian Dykstra exceeds them both in bringing vernacular poetry alive.
Meeting of the Minds
Dykstra’s Razor-Sharp play ‘Clean Alternatives’ is a slam dunk
By: Paul Hansom
Clean Alternatives by Brian Dykstra. Directed by Margarett Perry. With Emily Ackerman, Mark Boyett, and Brian Dykstra.
At the Kitchen Theatre through November 5.
Clean Alternatives is a must see. It's a powerful meditation on social responsibility and personal redemption, mixing razor-edged dialogue with a poetry-slam directness. Two legal sharks, Cutter (Dykstra) and Slate (Boyett), want to buy pollution rights from a small factory owner (Ackerman) in order to subsidize the continued pollution of bigger interests. The sacrificial mark then turns the tables, using the deal-money to fight those same corporate interests. Morally exhausted by life in the gutter, Slate joins her cause, waiting for the inevitable showdown with Cutter -- who yearns for a clash worthy of his talents.
The terrifying, opening wheeler-dealer scene immediately casts Cutter and Slate as total company bastards, comfortably bending the laws that permit corporations to step neatly through legal loopholes in the Clean Skies Act. These are the new men, the hollow men, thriving on the chaos of a dying democracy they're helping to throttle, willingly exploiting "truthiness" for all the wrong reasons.
But Dykstra does an excellent job of rescuing both from being one-dimensional heavies by providing them with enough self-knowledge to allow them profound character struggles. As Slate, Boyett is hard-edged, a no-nonsense professional whose pang of conscience is completely believable - he is a cause-man looking for the right one, the crusader you want on your side. Ackerman, too, is no patsy. She's tough and vulnerable, smart and wily, bringing a vital sense of clear purpose to the ethical camp, and her poetic engagements with the audience slice through the bull-fog with a vigorous urgency, delivering a powerful counterbalance to the spin.
Dykstra, as the aptly named Cutter, stays with the team. But it's not without consequences. He knows what he's become, and this awareness horrifies us precisely because he knows all his own angles and he anticipates all the arguments. Dykstra shows us the cost of compromise, but not through a whitewash. Instead he lets Cutter remain big, bullish, eloquent and fiery right to the very end. Don't expect any easy closure.