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A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
We don't usually review plays running such a short time but the world premiere of The Fox seemed too intriguing to pass by. Its author, Carne Ross, took a playwriting course at New York University after assuming his current post as First Secretary at the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations.
Growing up in London, Ross taught in Zimbabwe before university, and traveled widely before joining the Foreign Service after graduation. His diplomatic postings and world travel stimulated an interest in politics, particularly the connection between identity and violence. And it is this theme that drives his first play.
As his central character, Mr. Ross has chosen Alex (Mason Phillips), a young peace keeping officer who is irrevocably changed after watching a horrible massacre in a country which, though unnamed, immediately brings Bosnia to mind. Alex returns to London, his fiancée Kate (Simona Morecroft) and best friend Simon (Martin Hillier). But, while he's eager to resume his old life, his experience has so disturbed his equilibrium that he finds himself unable to accept his former life as civilized. Repelled as he was by the man who killed a whole village, he was also drawn to his sense of purpose. Consequently he finds life in London empty and ugly and begins to make plans for a more peaceful and purpuseful existence. This turns out to be not just a house in the country, but the establishment of a utopian city which will include a school for Kate to continue her career as a teacher. Alex's new life mission turns messianic, his behavior increasingly strange -- and his relationship with Kate and Simon deteriorates. Unfortunately, so does the play.
The Fox unfolds through a series of scenes in and around London -- a bar, Kate's apartment and a park. The story is fleshed out by having all three actors intermittently appear on two videos placed at each side of the stage. This device works quite well. However, it doesn't prevent the play's "talking heads" sensibility from taking over, and Alex from becoming less a man driven by passionate belief than someone who goes bipolar; nor does it make Simon's realization that he loves Kate less predictable.
The melodramatic ending might be viewed a reflection of the world's often all too melodramatic events. It struck me as a case of a new playwright unable to negotiate a more convincing ending.