ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
If the Rapp-sters who were in the audience at the performance I attended were disappointed that this world premiere is Rapp in a gentler, quieter mode, it wasn't evident. They laughed loudly and in all the right places at the humor that punctuates this heart wrenching story with a twist about about a Rapp-style Holden Caulfield and his seriously ill mother who are looking for escape from the painful reality of their Midwestern lives with a hotel-and-a-show sojourn to New York. The boy Dennis is played by Christopher Denham in a stunning followup to his performance in Red Light Winter. Annette O'Toole manages to be vivacious, nagging and heartbreaking as his mother, Maryanne.
Rapp seems to be anticipating a broader audience as indicated by a scene in which the audience at the play which Maryanne chose to see is discussed. (It's aptly entitled Survivin'). When Frances (a wily and willowy Katherine Waterston, the second of Sam Waterston's daughters in a major Fall Off-Broadway play), Kindness's young mystery woman comments that being at a Broadway show feels to her like" being trapped in a science fiction novel quot; Maryanne declares that the theater she attended was "packed to the gills with the Youth of America" as well as older people. This was certainly true of the audience at the Peter Sharpe Sharpe Theater.
The hotel room in Kindness (nicely detailed by Lauren Helpern) is more spacious than Red Light Winter's hole-in-the-wall room near Amsterdam's Red Light District, and the play itself is confined to a single set and a 90-minute, intermissionless time frame. And while Rapp's current theme seems is tied to the title, the hammer on the Playbill cover signals that kindness can be a desperate and decidedly ungentle act.
Since Dennis never leaves the midtown hotel room where he and his mom are spending the weekend, there's little action in the conventional sense. Yet Rapp has used the other characters to add combined thriller and hokey only in New York subplot elements. The thriller aspect, which revolves around Frances, feels a bit like an updated B-movie or Paul Auster novel. In sharp contrast to the edgy and dark Frances, as Herman (Ray Anthony Thomas), the friendly cab driver Maryanne befriends, is one of those somewhat hokey, only-in-New York characters people submit anecdotes about for the New York Times Metropolitan Diary column.
The various duets between Dennis and Maryanne, Dennis and Frances and the one scene where these two transient odd couples meet. bring Rapp's thematic search for kindness and sympathy in a harsh world to a striking but ambiguous conclusion. Rapp, elicits fine performances from all four actors, but it's Denham who is the play's driving force. He's as convincing as an awkward, intense 17-year-old as he was as an immature 30-year-old in Red Light Winter.
Seeing Kindness between the Broadway revivals of A Man For All Seasons and All My Sons, would put this small play at a disadvantage if I were to make comparisons. Arthur Miller and Robert Bolt's grand old melodramas may be old-fashioned but they have something that makes them resonate many years later. Interesting as Rapp's work is, I somehow don't see understated slice of life plays like Kindness having that kind of durability, no matter what the audience demographic. But then Rapp is young and amazingly prolific and this move towards a more naturalistic than usual style, indicates that he's willing to grow and change — and perhaps one of these days give us a play for the ages.
Links to Adam Rapp Plays Reviewed at Curtainup
Bingo With Indians
Red Light Winter
Stone Cold Dead Serious