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A CurtainUp Review
What sustains this ongoing connection? The play by screen writer Abi Morgan’s ( The Iron Lady ) centers on unexpected incidents that dramatically alter lives and the need to take risks for real fulfillment. Two such incidents affected Anthony and Lucien when they were young: a bolt of lightening and a doomed young woman they both loved. How much was random, how much predictable? Unfortunately, repetitiveness and a sluggish plot prevent this premise from driving interest through much of the play.
Lucien is burdened by a guilt that’s not fully revealed until the wrap-up ending. Every summer he takes Anthony off the streets and brings him to the country for a sort of bizarre rehab. This year it's to an isolated, no-fuss, primitive cabin on a lake. As always, bites of past memories edge in to haunt them as they pass the time scanning newspapers for other random incidents like a sandwich tossed from the Empire State Building, killing a pedestrian and cracking the sidewalk.
When they meet Madeleine (Olivia Horton), a free-spirited summer clerk, they realize she resembles the dead girl they once loved but the emotional relationship that develops between the three is questionable. None of the characters’ ages are specified although their disparate personalities are evident. DeLong sharply infuses Anthony with hyperactive energy, childlike spontaneity, and paranoid suspicions. Conn displays Lucien’s unspoken guilt but also, with gritted teeth and a sticking-it-out stance, makes clear his impatience with Anthony’s irresponsibility. Horton is effective as the casual Madeleine, with her good-time-while-it-lasts philosophy and her carefree spirit. Where will she go after the summer? “Wherever,” she shrugs. Just as we don’t know her future, we don’t know her past.
Madeleine listens to the men’s newspaper stories and is sensible enough to back off when they reach volcanically emotional peaks. Her presence forces them to face the secrets of the past even as they enjoy the present summer days at the lake. Unwittingly, she nudges them toward taking a risky leap into the future, something both men are hesitant to do.
Director Matt Torney's primitive staging fits the mood of this strange summer scenario. It plays out on Maruti Evans’ wooden platform, two chairs and numerous light bulbs on the walls and hanging imaginatively on dangling wires over the stage. Multiple bulbs electrify the intermittent memories, randomly popping. With the audience seated along opposite sides, Will Pickens’ provides the sounds of crackling light bulbs, buzzing electric currents, the lake’s gentle lapping, and the big splash as the characters plunge into the shockingly icy lake during the rainstorm.
While acclaimed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this New York premiere production of Morgan’s introspective journey has a strong premise, but it fails to captivate and seems long even thugh it runs only 80-minutes.
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