Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Rearviewmirror - April 3, 2007

I went to Rearviewmirror hoping for the best. I always attend the theater hoping for the best. Unfortunately I am all too often disappointed. I am very happy to say that Rearviewmirror was one of those times when a show exceeded my hopes.

At the pre-set I was slightly concerned as the stage was set with nothing more than 3 stools and... hey... wait... a cute, shoeless guy. Okay, I'm 25% there if there's a cute guy. Good sign.

The pre-show music was encouraging, there was a great mix with a healthy dose of Elvis Costello. Rarely is that a bad thing. And in checking the program I saw that the sound design was by Ryan Rumery who had done other shows I loved, Based on a Totally True Story, at MTC and The Roundtable Ensemble's The Seagull, at the Blue Heron.

The show began and ended and was performed entirely by three people sitting on those stools. And I was riveted the entire time. Not once did I think: I could pick up some Chinese on the way home... Usually I know a show is tanking when I'm running through Empire Wok's take-out menu in my head instead of paying attention to the action onstage. With Rearviewmirror there was nary a thought of steamed broccoli or egg fu young.

Playwright Eric Winick has done a masterful job of pulling together themes so seemingly unrelated you'd think he got them from a round of Trivial Pursuit. Pop music, film school geeks, Orthodox Judaism, and The Bacchae??? Yet he made them seem as though they were always meant to be together. That this is a story as old as time.

The three characters are (in order of speaking): Penn (Mark Alhadeff) the aforementioned cute and barefooted one, Agatha (Audrey Lynn Weston) and Inez (Sarah Nina Hayon). Although all three are key, this is a nice lean production with no excess, Penn is the primary narrator and he is as charming as you could want and sets the tone right from the start. "What is it about Orthodox girls?" he asks plaintively. Seems Penn has himself a little fetish.

We meet Agatha as an innocent - yes she is buying condoms for her Junior year abroad in Israel, but she is, in fact, an innocent. She is a tabula rasa waiting for something to believe in, a passionate woman who needs a focus. She finds it in Israel as she discovers her Judaism. "This is a big deal for a [Jewish] girl from Massachusetts who grew up singing O Tannenbaum every Christmas Eve."

After Agatha is brought back to the U.S. by her family, with the help of a deprogrammer, she and Penn meet at a party. He falls for her in her Orthodox garb, she falls for him and his passion for movies.

Last we meet Inez, a young Orthodox woman whose mother was, "... from Spain and she didn't think how odd Inez would sound here." Her story is the most poignant and disturbing. She is devoted to her life, her religious upbringing, her family, and she loves her klezmer music. Inez knows who she is and what she wants. Until she has the rug pulled out from under her. I will not give away more except to say that she has a journey to make, and where it ultimately brings her surprised me.

The three characters interact with each other from time to time, but primarily they speak directly to the audience. Each telling their own stories, which then become connected into one story: with a disturbing climax that is at once shocking and inevitable.

These three actors were wonderful. Each character fully drawn and alive. The direction by Carl Forman was subtle, those missing shoes... nice touch. The writing was lively, clever and as Mr. Winick is working on the screenplay for Rearviewmirror it seems we'll get to see more of his work. I for one, am delighted.

59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th St.
New York, NY 10022
Tickets: 212-279-4200

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