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A CurtainUp Review
The English Bride
By Joyce Friedland
And that's when we begin to sense the ambiguity in the tale before us. Is this a love story? Is it a terrorist plot gone awry? Is it a story of cultural differences? Is it all of the above, or none of the above? Truth is not only elusive, but it may never appear with certainty in this play.
Unlike peeling back an onion to find the truth at the center, this play is more like a kaleidoscope that depends upon the way you look through it to see one of many patterns. Dov, as played by Ezra Barnes in an aloof, detached manner, is seeking to manipulate his suspects to find a straightforward terrorist plot that has one or more clearly drawn villains. This is not what he discovers when he questions Eileen, played by Amy Griffin as a plain, lower-class woman afraid that life has passed her by. She plays her role so convincingly that you want to buy into her story that she actually gained the attention and passionate love of a younger, attractive man, Ali Said (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend).
In the flashbacks that become part of his interrogation th primary motivation for this liaison with Eileen becomes unclear. Goodfriend is so good at playing the role of a devoted lover that you almost believe him when he sends Eileen, his bride-to-be, ahead on a plane to Israel with the promise that he will arrive the next day. Eileen's primary motivation in this scheme is also called into question. Every character, even Dov, indulges in so many lies that the truth remains elusive. For me, this provided the fascination of the play.
Though this is a very small theater, the set design had to accommodate a jail cell, an interrogation room, a London park, a flat, a restaurant, and an airport. Bob Phillips accomplished this effectively by dividing the space on stage into three adjacent square planes, elevated from the floor at slightly different heights. Moving from one scene to another, each plane became one of the designated places. Left to the imagination of the audience and the astute direction of Carl Wallnau, this worked quite well.
What didn't work quite so well for me was the length of the play. While 95 minutes isn't very long, the minimal action on this stage made me fidget toward the end. I feel some additional text tightening would not lose any of the mystery and intensity of passion, and, in fact, enhance it.
Here's a link to our review of the premiere production in Philadelphia