“The Downtown Loop” at 3LD Art and Technology Center (Closed November 16, 2013)

October 24, 2013 | Off-Broadway
By Ben Gassman
Directed by Meghan Finn
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Downtown Loop” often takes the same “swimming” break (euphemism for a nap) its unnamed tour guide (Greg Carere) indulges in during its often exciting but sometimes boring journey through downtown Manhattan. With his trainee (Sam Soghor), the energetic but somehow jaded tour guide talks his passengers through the streets and canyons of the “demon god” of the city that never sleeps. His tour, interrupted by the coming and going of tour participants and a variety of street vendors and characters from the guide’s life, includes fact and fiction and far too often veers off course.

David Ogle’s mind-stretching set with sound design by Jon Bernstein and lighting design by Sarah Johnston are nothing short of brilliant but simply cannot overcome the deficits in playwright Ben Gassman’s checkered script. Sam Soghor, who greets the audience as they are seated on “the bus,” brings needed energy and believability to the action but even his charming interventions cannot overcome the dreary back stories involving street vendors, a Basque woman, a Finnish woman, and “her.”

The experience is not without a payoff although the audience waits almost the full seventy minutes for their reward. Mr. Gassman’s emotional story about George Washington’s walk from his home under the Brooklyn Bridge (now the site of the Jehovah Witnesses prime DUMBO real estate) to his workplace a half mile away and the equally haunting story of the Lenape nation’s real estate deal with the Dutch West India Company are any tour guides dream narratives. As heartwarming as these stories are, they are not enough to rescue “The Downtown Loop” from the bumpy ride it is.