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A CurtainUp Review
Mark of Cain
by Eunice Marquet

The years pass quickly. It is only the days that pass slowly.
Vincent Sagona as Cain, Sarah Gifford as Lucifer and Michael Evans Lopez as Able. az (Photo:Chuck Cors )
Last Thursday, the 78th Street Theatre Lab played host to the Royal Danish Consulate who eagerly awaited the American premiere of Mark of Cain by one of Denmark's most acclaimed playwrights, Morti Vizki. The cozy 40-seat studio on the upper-west side provides an ideal arena for this minimalist drama of biblical proportions. With the streamlined set and unique use of lighting, designers Lisbeth Burian and Ji-Youn Chang achieve one of the more innovative uses of practical space that I have seen in the city. Both serve the play well at every turn.

Mark of Cain brings new insights to the original and most infamous tale of sibling rivalry. Cain, the older and more devout brother envies the talents and depth of his younger brother Abel. Abel on the other hand has premonitions of his own mortality and the oppression of his future generations at the hand of his brother. Both of the young men feel the pressures of being "sons of celebrities" and the expectations that are heaped upon them to fulfill their congenital potential.

These frustrations are inflamed by the arrival of a beautiful and antagonistic woman named Lucifer. Hostilities escalate as the brothers vie for her attention and affections. Eventually, Cain is set upon his predestined homicidal path by Lucifer's seductive taunts and his belief that God has forsaken him yet again in favor of his younger brother.

In Vizki's hands, this ancient morality tale reverberates with modern audiences. He up-dates the story not only through text and character, but also by drawing parallels with our current state of affairs. The characters of Cain and Able are robust and layered. Their tragedy is all the more painful because of the camaraderie the brothers share. However, the character of Lucifer is not quite as sharply drawn. Her initial scenes are beautifully written and beautifully acted, but as the play progresses, her intentions become more and more ambiguous. Despite the fine work of actress Sara Gifford, Lucifer's motives are lost as she bounces from brother to brother. In the end, you walk away with a muddy picture of who the character was or how she felt about her involvement in the inaugural murder.

Under Jens Boutrup's direction, the three-person ensemble gives a solid performance. Vincent Sagona and Michael Evans Lopez are an impressive team. Sagona embraces the jealous and insecure Cain, while Lopez embodies the sensitive and restless Abel. Each brings their own aptitude, but their techniques and rhythms compliment each other perfectly.

It is not difficult to understand why Vizki is considered one of Denmark's most important living playwrights. At a scant 70 minutes, Mark of Cain is a dense and provocative piece that challenges its audience and sends them away with much to think about. The honed performances and creative production design make it well worth the trip to 78th Street to catch this limited engagemen

t. Congratulations to Mr. Vizki on his American premiere and I for one certainly hope to see more of his work in the future.

Mark of Cain
Written by Morti Vizki
Directed by Jens Boutrup
Cast: Sarah Gifford (Lucifer, Michael Evans Lopez (Abel), Vincent Sagona (Cain)
Production Design: Lisbeth Burian
Lighting Design: Ji-Youn Chang
Sound Design: Eric Nightengale
Dramaturg: Gillian Levene
Assistant Costume Design: Viviane Galloway
Running time: 1 hour and 10 minutes, no intermission
78th Street Theatre Lab, 236 West 78th Street (just East of Broadway)
Tickets $15; 212-206-1515
2/1/03 - 2/22/03; opening 2/7/03
Wednesday through Saturday at 8PM
Reviewed by Eunice Marquet based on February 6th performance
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