Capsule reviews and ratings of recent New York plays.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Jen Silverman’s dark, quirky comedy for Playwrights Realm brings us the world of the Brontes with a touch of Beckett. Agatha and Huldey are sisters living in the family manse after the death of their father. Agatha, a seemingly serene spinster, as played by Linda Powell (The Christians), is a dead ringer for Gertrude Stein. Her emotionally flamboyant younger sister Huldey (Birgit Huppuch of Men on Boats) has literary pretensions and tries to read her diary to anyone who will listen. Emilie (Chasten Harmon) is a pretty young governess who has just arrived after being recruited through letters allegedly written by the sisters’ unseen brother Branwell. The reasons for his absence and for her being hired to care for a nonexistent child are eventually revealed. Hannah Cabell (Men on Boats) plays the dour Marjory, the scullery maid, and Mallory, the parlor maid, who may be the same person. Andrew Garman (The Christians) plays the sisters’ large mastiff who suffers from loneliness and depression. Teresa Avia Lim plays the injured moor-hen the mastiff takes a fancy to and has philosophical discussions with. All the repressed emotion leads to an outburst of violence, followed by a song, complete with mic. The ending is rather low-key. The subplot of the two animals is interesting, but does not really cohere with the main story. The production is first-rate. The cast is uniformly strong, the understated set by Dane Laffrey is evocative, the costumes by Anita Yavich are wonderful, the lighting by Jen Schriever is effective and there’s lots of fog. Mike Donahue’s direction is smooth. What the play lacks in coherence, it almost makes up for in cleverness and originality. It would benefit from a 15-minute trim. It was well-received by the audience, which must have had a median age below 30. Running time: one hour 45 minutes; no intermission.