Get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents.
This week, by chance, I saw two off-broadway plays back-to-back that similarly stray beyond traditional dramatic language and provide interesting challenges for both the performers and the audience. While they might not be for everyone (as the divisive reviews attest), they certainly might be right for those looking for adventures beyond traditional Broadway fare…
Sarah Cameron Sunde translates and directs a new play by acclaimed Norwegian writer Jon Fosse, about a woman–played by Raiders of the Lost Ark‘s Karen Allen–trapped in memories of one tragic day.
“…a quietly brutal little work that turns a romantic cliché into a sentence of existential doom (or freedom, depending on your mind-set).” New York Times
“A Summer Day succeeds in touching the audience without making any effort to seduce it.” New York Post
“Fosse’s abstract technique may be an acquired taste, even in this 90-minute dose, but the welcome return of Karen Allen to the New York stage is a treat not to be missed.” Associated Press
“Like everything else in this slender narrative, the point is simply stated, over and over, in scene after scene, in increasingly melodramatic language. And calling it poetry doesn’t make it any less deadly.” Variety
Mizer’s Two Cents: With its repetitive, purposefully simplistic dialogue, this play perfectly captures the circling cadences of someone obsessively going over and over a single event…but the question becomes, no matter how poetically achieved and accurate the effect, do you want to spend an hour and a half inside that static, grief-stricken mindset? I, for one, found it moving, though I did have to adjust my tempo and expectations so as not to look for traditional dramatic arcs or conflict driven outbursts. My theater companion for the evening, less impressed, said, “I admired it but I can’t say that I liked it.”
My admiration for Karen Allen’s performance, however, is unqualified. With an achingly open vulnerability, she gently pulls the audience into her confessional and handles the challenge of the language with touching ease–where some of the other actors push to differentiate the intentions behind their repeated, banal phrases. And when, toward the end of the play, Ms. Allen smiles, she is all at once the young woman of hope and the lost older woman–both reaching out for someone to hold.