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A CurtainUp Review
City of Glass
By Paulanne Simmons
City of Glass is about a onetime poet, Daniel Quinn, who now writes detective fiction under a pseudonym. A phone call from a man asking for a detective named Paul Auster sends Quinn on an adventure that leads him through the streets of New York City and into the homes of a rich madman named Paul Stillman Jr. and eventually a writer who may or may not be the real Paul Auster.
Edward Einhorn, who writes in the program notes, "When I first read City of Glass, I had the had the strong sense that I had written it," has undertaken the formidable task of creating a dramatization of the novel and also directing it. Having established his feeling of kinship, Einhorn continues his program note as follows: "Most of all, this is a play about brokenness. Daniel Quinn is a broken version of the author. haunted by the ghosts of his wife and son. Peter Stillman Jr. is an example of a man who is deliberately broken by another."
Einhorn expresses that brokenness by dividing his characters into their spoken words, delivered by the narrator (Robert Honeywell) and their physical selves portrayed by a silent man (Mateo Moreno) and a silent woman (Dina Rose Rivera). The ambiguity is emphasized by mixing up the gender roles. A scrim that also serves as a screen allows the actors to appear as shadows and projected images.
The detective genre is communicated with eerie lighting, suspenseful music, fedoras, trench coats and Honeywell's brilliant acting that enables him to transform himself from a hardboiled detective to a femme fatal and a raving maniac. Nevertheless, existential philosophy does not necessarily make for dramatic moments. For that we need real characters who have lives we can relate to in some way.
For the first ten minutes, it's hard to figure out what's going on. In the second ten minutes we gradually get it. We may even admire what Einhorn is trying to do. But after a while, the various devices he employs grow stale.
City of Glass will be just fine for people who like to see intellectual exercises on stage. All others should go rent a copy of Double Indemnity and watch Fred McMurray as the wounded and washed up Walter Neff succumbing to lust and greed and kill Phyllis Dietrichson's husband in a botched attempt to collect his life insurance.