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A CurtainUp Review
Simon Says gets off to an interesting start in the apartment (nicely cluttered by designer Janie Howland) in which elderly Williston (Brian Murray) is evidently managing the conflicted life of a much younger man James (Anthony J. Goes). James, who would rather be playing baseball, has a gift for communicating with the spirit world, in particular as a vehicle for entry into this world by an entity named Simon.
At first, it appears that Williston's only intention is to document and record what Simon says through James for a book he is writing about the existence of the soul. Presumably caused by an accident in childhood, James psychic abilities have, apparently proven to be astounding to a growing number of spiritually inclined philosophers. The young man, however, clearly wants to live a normal life and not be manipulated by his Svengali-like mentor. . . or is Williston his lingering arch nemesis from a past life?
Despite his initial unwillingness to help Annie (Vanessa Britting) a young woman who has come for a reading deal with a personal tragedy, James finds himself eventually committed to her even as he allows Simon to speak through him. This is where the play jumps the track and mainly becomes a platform for a very long and convoluted monologue in which James becomes the portal for a vengeful Simon's Karmic path, or rather more likely Schaffer's interdisciplinary discourse on the unity of all consciousness: A theory that seems able and capable of linking all three of them as they are brought together to fulfill their final destiny. But it ain't over until it's over. This play might appeal to fans of Edgar Cayce, as well as to atheists and agnostics who might feel the need to get into the conversation. There are talk-backs after some performances.
You have to hand it to the actors who take it all very seriously and with every intention to make us care about their characters' souls in flux through the millenniums. What a treat it is see the always wonderful Murray officiate over the proceedings in an aggressively professorial manner, although there is always about him an aura (excuse the illusion) of someone naughty and mischievous that no one can deny. Goes does a lot of writhing on the floor and wiping his eyes, as one does I suppose when regressing under duress. The bristling Britting gets more than she bargained for as we all surely do. Myriam Cyr has directed the play earnestly as if reincarnation is the new kid on the block and that we better be welcoming or Simon will surely come and get us.
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Simon Says by Mat Schaffer
Directed by Myriam Cyr
Cast: Brian Murray (Williston), Anthony J. Goes (James), Vanessa Britting (Annie), and Simon
Scenic Design: Janie Howland
Lighting Design; John R.. Malinowski
Costume Design: Cat Stramer
Sound Design; Brian Doser
Production Stage Manager: Kassondra Glenn
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission
Lynn Redgrave Theater, Culture Project, 49 Bleecker Street
www.cultureproject.org or call 866-811-4111.
From 07/06/16 Opened 07/10/16 Ends 07/30/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/07/16
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