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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
This new work from Thurber features interesting characters and plenty of weighty ideas. Though it has an admirable poetic, otherworldly quality, it isn't as moving, or convincing as it should be.
We meet Rachel (Maggie Siff), a promising young writer and new college professor, just as her life starts to go awry. To begin with, she fears she'll miss her book deadline because of writer's block. Next, her slightly unstable brother Billy (Thomas Sadoski) arrives for a surprise visit. Then, one of her students (Jess Weixler as Julia) starts unapologetically stalking her. But these external problems are mere catalysts for the show's real, internal focus. Because of all her stress, Rachel's starts to have troubles communicating with her secret, giggly angel and muse (Jenny Maguire in a fluttery white dress). Her brother's arrival also brings out her dormant emotional baggage from her dysfunctional, abusive father. What's more, Julia seems to have an uncanny, magical ability to see into Rachel's soul, leading to all sorts of painful revelations and an odd attraction between the two women.
So there are two worlds in the play, those of internal horrors and external conflicts. The single biggest problem with the piece is that neither Thurber nor director Jackson Gay seems to fully address either. Shortcuts are everywhere. The realistic scenes are often either implausible (why does everyone decide to head over to Rachel's house at 5 am, for example?) or predictable, and the big moments don't feel warranted. Maybe that's also due to the fact that the cast doesn't quite sell their characters' dark pasts. For instance, I had a hard time believing that the brash and jovial Sadoski possessed such a dark soul and haunting childhood. The more fantastical elements, meanwhile, are oddly grounded. The Angel, for example, is clearly meant to be a secret inspiration to Rachel. But Maguire's stage presence is more petulant than powerful, and the angel feels like a heavy, distracting symbol rather than an attractive and dominant force.
Without either a believable real world or an evocative inward conflict, there is too little for the audience to grasp. Thurber is a talented writer who has created some lively characters locked in difficult situations, potentially the recipe for a fascinating drama. Stay's interesting and ambitious elements don't, however, overcome the problems of both script and production making it difficult to commit to the play emotionally engaged, or to take it as seriously as it seemed to take itself.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide