ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
This play, formerly named Auntie and Me, was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2002 and had a later run in London's West End. Curtainup also caught up with it during a brief run in the Berkshires. Now New Yorkers can see it at the DR2 Theaer.
This is no sentimental story of a loving nephew with his dying aunt but a new take on the idea that the world is filled with lonelyhearts, with Kemp (Malcolm Gets) study of a man who's essentially forgotten how to connect with other human beings.
The acting in this two-hander is first-rate. Malcolm Gets, who has numerous musical credits on and off Broadway (Amour), really grabs hold of his character. And Helen Stenborg, as the dying aunt, reminds us that spoken words are not the only means to effectively convey a character on stage. She barely speaks during most of the play.
Gets' character can be off-putting, with his calculating attitude towards his aunt (he seems more interested in his inheritance than in her fragile health or emotional well-being), but he wins us over with his spot-on acting. We get to know Kemp not only via his richly-nuanced voice but through the subtle lifting of an eyebrow or shift in posture. Stenborg, as the aunt who's not long for this world is the epitome of vulnerability. But she also displays an indomitable spirit and will ultimately teach Kemp a thing or two about life and that darker subject, death and dying.
The production would benefit if the intermission was cut along with a few scenes. Director Stephen DiMenna would have done well to rethink having so many short scenes back-to back, all punctuated by blackouts. Instead of building the action, these staccato-like episodes create a fragmenting effect. Another reason for omitting some scenes is that Kemp is not that psychologically complex a character. Granted, he does change from being a killer-diller to a more feeling human being but it seems unnecessary to watch him find a dozen new ways to hurry his aunt to her grave. .
The original music by Greg Pliska is a plus for heightening pivotal moments and accentuating Stenborg's sustained silence and Gets' zanyness. The passing of the seasons is sensitively rendered by Ed McCarthy's lighting; and Andromache Chalfant's claustrophobic set is rightly cluttered with an old woman's life-time paraphernalia.The show is worth seeing for the excellent performances by these strange bedfellows who execute a fine pas de deux before the final scene with its surprise twist.