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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
—original review by
The play tells the story of a couple whose young son has just died. The father drowns himself in work and travel and a meaningless affair. The mother hovers on the edge of a nervous breakdown and attempts to care for their six-year-old daughter as best she can. But their story is ancillary. The star attraction here is playwright Jenny Schwartz's free-flowing (sometimes free-falling) language.
Schwartz has an inherent grasp of colloquialisms, and her dialogue is very much reminiscent of an edgier, less fantastical Mac Wellman. The words unfold at a frenetic pace — often repeating, often fragmentary, and interspersed with the occasional atonal Richard Maxwell-esque song. In short, the language is a character, not a tool. Nothing the actors say reveals information, advances the plot or references to an external reality. And yet, you can't help being sucked into what's happening. If I had to sum it up in a single sentence, I'd call it a tragedy of a disintegrating marriage boiled down into a laundry list of figures of speech.
The excellent actors match the crazy energy of the dialogue. This is especially true of Matthew Montelongo, who must surely have the most interesting dual role of the season—that of a transvestite flight attendant, and GI Joe sprung to life. Christina Kirk Is Mel, the jittery but somehow indefatigable wife. Monique Vukovic does well as her precocious daughter Lanie. Even though her character is more of an observer than an active participant, Judith Greentree does a stellar turn as a very blue and glittery Tooth Fairy.
God's Ear has another star in Kris Stone's set, a square blue platform with several ingenious trapdoors. It's very sleek, very modern, and very blue, serving as a postmodern blank slate for the play. Thanks to Anne Kauffman's astute direction It's also used in some very surprising ways. Kauffman has an innate grasp of the subtleties of Schwartz's linguistic stylings, and of the energy level required to sustain them.
God's Ear is not for theater goers who prefer a linear, neatly told drama. Despite this caveat, the play's structure is both formal and ingenious. To sum up, if you like Mac Wellman, Richard Maxwell, Melissa James Gibson, and other hip downtown auteurs with a penchant for bending and twisting language to its breaking point, then you'll love God's Ear