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A CurtainUp Review
This Wide Night
By Elyse Sommer
This is not light-hearted, forget-your-troubles entertainment. It demands careful attention to accustom the ear to the thick accents and to extract the meaning of both the spoken and unspoken interchanges between its two characters, both ex-cons. More than anything This Wide Night is driven by its characters. With Edie Falco, taking a welcome break from her Nurse Jackie TV gig, and Alison Pill, one of our most impressive and busy young stage actors, to portray these women on the fringes of society, this quiet and seemingly uneventful play is a deeply moving theatrical experience.
The facts about Marie and Lorraine's history and the nuances of their relationship are revealed bit by bit and, in fact, often just hinted at. Marie (Pill), has apparently been out for a while when her former cellmate Lorraine (Falco) unexpectedly arrives at her bed-sitter. Recently released and still in a parole situation and feeling lost, the older woman turns to the younger one to navigate the sense of disoientation of being free after 12 years of incarceration for an unspecified act of violence. The close bond the women seem to have forged in prison is clearly somewhat strained since Marie has been out long enough to have a job about which we also know little except that she seems tense and depressed, needs a shower as soon as she comes home and spends her free time curled up in chair watching a tv set that has no sound.
Since Marie apparently never visited Lorraine once she was released there's a certain awkardness to their first meeting. The suspense, such as it is, derives from what effect the newly freed Lorraine's arrival has on the friendship outside the prison and on their efforts to normalize their lives.
Falco and Pill give quite remarkable. audience engaging performances with amazingly convincing accents. Lorraine is a tragic figure whose hopes for anything good happening to her have fadedm but Falco manages to bring some much needed humor as well as great authenticity to her quirks. Given the contrast with Pill's more intense Marie we get fully caught up in the subtly unfolding post-jail interaction between these damaged women.
Marie is clearly as needy as Lorraine but as Moss is hesitant to more than hint at their pasts so the women are hesitant in allowing themselves to once again establish a close bond. The possibiliy that the toughened by life after as well as in jail Marie is still capable of youthful exuberance is touchingly demonstrated in a scene when she gets Lorraine to join her in a silly game they used to play in prison. The potential for the women giving each other the support and encouragement both need is poignantly played out when Marie gives Lorraine a shirt to wear for a meeting with the now grown son she gave up for adoption many years ago.
Anne Kauffman and her expert designers have seen to it that the actors are given just the right visual look and surroundings The costumes and a dingily furnished bed-sitter underscore the aura of sorrow and gloom that makes the outcome of the women's reconnection the one chance to bring a glimmer of hope into their dark and empty lives.