Her Requiem
Her Requiem - Maybe death isn't a subject that you typically warm to in the heart of winter. But if you visit Greg Pierce's new play at Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater, you will discover that the Grim Reaper isn't just that hooded guy who knocks at the door of the dying but can tap insistently on the mind of a young artist Read More 'Her Requiem '| a CurtainUp Review CurtainUp
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A CurtainUp Review
Her Requiem by Deirdre Donovan
If I can't do something great, I may as well clear the path for Caitlin. — Dean
her requiem
Left to right: Mare Winningham (Allison), Naian Gonzalez Norvind (Caitlin), and Peter Friedman (Dean). (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
Maybe death isn't a subject that you typically warm to in the heart of winter. But if you visit Greg Pierce's new play Her Requiem at Lincoln Center's Claire Tow Theater, you will discover that the Grim Reaper isn't just that hooded guy who knocks at the door of the dying but can tap insistently on the mind of a young artist in search of her next composition. Directed by Kate Whoriskey, Her Requiem is the latest offering from the LCT3 initiative, which promotes rising new artists and gives them a platform to present their work.

The premise is this: Caitlin, a 17 year-old girl living in Vermont with her family, is taking off her senior year from high school to write a requiem. Her dad Dean is keen on the idea but her mom Allison is less so, especially as their family life gets increasingly disrupted by a "gathering" of young people who migrate to their homestead to await the birth of Caitlin's requiem. Dean generously accommodates his daughter's admirers in their barn and attempts to preserve the family's privacy by hiring a liaison named Mirtis Paima, a young Goth woman who reports on the latest buzz from the "gathering." There's also Caitlin's blog, which began as a bona fide school assignment for updating her progress on her requiem, but soon gains a wider following than the school's faculty, with readers blogging their support and praise for her ambitious work.

Pierce is no stranger at the Claire Tow. He made his debut there with Slow Girl which was the inaugural production. Since then, he has co-written two musicals with the legendary John Kander, The Landing (at the Vineyard) and Kid Victory (at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia . And he has worked on severeral other stage and film projects. He has a good ear for dialogue, and captures the idiosyncracies and verbal tics of six fictive characters. "You speak of her like she's a prophet," shouts Allison to Dean during one of their heated arguments over Caitlin's requiem-in progress. Dean immediately retorts: "If I can't do something great, I may as well clear the path for Caitlin."

Does all this sound like the words of a middle-aged parent whose own dreams have dimmed and and who's living vicariously through the gifted daughter works to break the glass ceiling of art? You betcha.

Although most of the play's characters come into focus early on, Caitlin, the pivotal character doesn't gain any real definition until the closing scenes. We never learn that much about her interior life, and only get a taste of her reflections on her requiem-in-progress. Her violin teacher and mentor Tommy does engage in serious conversations with her as she struggles to complete her composition. When they gradually become lovers (much to the parents' outrage), Caitlin certainly reveals her adolescent insecurities as she sheds girlish innocence for her first sexual experience. If Pierce had created a single monologue or extended speech for his protagonist, it would allow the audience to pin down the psyche of the prodigy better.

Enough dissecting of characters. Art is the thing here, and Pierce slices-and dices it in this domestic drama. The program cover for Her Requiem is an illustration of Caitlin's Vermont home and her "gathering," in silhouette, standing outside in the frost-bitten air, with their eyes expectantly fixed on the artist's homestead. This wonderfully captures what is at the core of Pierce's play: Art lovers are always holding vigil for the next-great art work. And whether it is born in a hamlet in Vermont or some other outpost, they want to be there to witness and celebrate it.

The acting ensemble land squarely on their feet here. Stage veterans Peter Friedman, as Dean, and Mare Winningham, as Allison, are well-cast as Caitlin's deeply caring but angst-ridden parents. Naian Norvind, making her New York stage debut in the role of Caitlin, conveys the necessary mix of confidence and naivete. Playing opposite her, Robbie Sublett proves that he has the range to inhabit a character who's an intellectual one moment, and a cad the next.

Special note to Joyce Patten and Keilly McQuail in the supporting roles of Gram and Mirtis Paima. Patten's portrayal of Caitlin's senile grandmother, who recites grisly fairy tales to the family, offers much comic relief. McQuail is spot-on as Caitlin's Goth admirer, who weirdly ends up inspiring Caitlin's Introit (introduction) for her requiem.

Derek McLane's rustic set, along with Amith Chandrashaker's lighting, conjures up a Vermont home that smacks of the frontier. Jessica Pabst's costumes are apropos, with each outfit accenting the character's uniqueness. And Joshua Schimidt's sound design is a vibrant mix of recorded classical interludes with an occasional pop rock tune.

Her Requiem is hardly flawless, but Pierce hits some right notes. Its characters are intriguingly if perhaps way too off-beat. And if does pose some interesting questions about artists, art, and what price a young artist like Caitlin — and her family — must pay before a work emerges into the light.

  Her Requiem by Greg Pierce
Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Cast: Peter Friedman (Dean), Mare Winningham (Allison), Robbie Collier Sublett (Tommy), Gram (Joyce Van Patten), Mirtis Paima (Keilly McQuail), Naian Gonzalez Norvind (Caitlin).
Sets: Derek McLane
Costumes: Jessica Pabst
Sound: Joshua Schmidt
Lighting: Amith Chandrashaker
General Manager: Jessica Niebanck
Clare Tow Theater at Lincoln Center (on the rooftop of the Vivian Beaumont) at 150 West 65th Street. Tickets: $30. Phone 212/239-6200 or online at www.Telecharge.com
From 2/06/16; opening 2/22/16; closing 3/20/16.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday @ 7pm; Saturday & Sunday matinees @ 2pm.
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on the performance of 2/17/16
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