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A CurtainUp Review
by Les Gutman
And then she says she's been raped by her ex-boyfriend. And then her sister (Emily Cass McDonnell) starts hanging around a lot. And then Sam starts following Katie, and breaking into the ex-boyfriend's apartment. Where is the line between telling the truth and keeping secrets?
The architecture is in place for a play about contemporary relationships, and the debilitating baggage that gets carried into them. It's a foundation that might appeal to Adam Rapp, which is obviously the case since he has directed cagelove. But playwright Christopher Denham (yes the same Christopher Denham now starring in Rapp's Red Light Winter a few blocks down 7th Avenue) has a different plan. He envisions cagelove as a "horror" play; in his words, "creating a fear that genuinely terrifies" the audience. Denham also has a different talent -- one lacking Rapp's extraordinary playwriting gifts. The point of the play gets lost in the cross-current of genres.
Using his own measuring stick, Denham clearly does not succeed. When cagelove tries to be scary, it elicits laughs. One might suggest that this is a problem in direction or performance, but the root of the problem is that the play never articulates the emotional stakes of its characters. Indeed, it avoids doing so. Enigmas -- another way of saying truths -- are too diffuse to support the kind of elevated intensity that would be necessary for Mr. Denham to achieve his objective of creating a stage thriller. In the context of the "love" story (which would seem to have the greater promise as a stage concept), the spooky stuff comes off, more often than not, as silly.
Mr. Rapp's direction is technically fine, and does its best to support the writer's intentions, but it seems fairly clear that he resisted the temptation to serve as a back seat driver to his playwright. An especially well-thought-out set by John McDermott, lighting by Ed McCarthy and sound by Eric Shim, as well as Erika Monro's costumes, also do justice to the play's stated sensibilities; more so, one should add, that the script itself.
Daniel Gold does an impressive job of finding an arc for his character's personality, in a play that provides none. Gillian Jacobs is equally proficient in manufacturing an interesting Katie. Emily McDonnell has less success with Ellen, though, to be fair to her, the reason for her character's presence in the show is one of its greatest mysteries. It's astonishing. really, how much the cast makes of a show that mistakes a blank slate for a story that terrorizes the audience with the unknown.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
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