Saturday, August 11, 2007

Double Vision

Double Vision is Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich's latest contribution to the New York Fringe Festival. Her style is lyric but modern and her voice is stronger here than in last year's Absolute Flight. It's exciting to watch a playwright grow and go deeper into the human condition.

Boiled down to the basics, Double Vision explores the most intimate aspect of the human condition: love - and our fear of our emotions. We meet six very different characters all of whom are experiencing the many fears we all face when confronted with love: fear of vulnerability, fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of making the same mistakes that led to past heartbreaks, and the fear of losing ones own identity to another. The charm here is that it is done with humor. While Double Vision never quite crosses the line to farce, there is a definite tip of the hat to bedroom farce - with its unlikely pairings and caught-in-the-act upsets. While the cast does not land every line, the humor is evident in the writing and Ms. Blumenthal-Ehrlich should be commended for a light touch on a touchy subject.

The couple whose issues are the main focus of the piece are Dave (Shane Jacobsen) and Mary (Rebecca Henderson). Mary has to decide whether to take a job across the country. She wants Dave's input but dreads it - her fear of his opinion, and his fear of giving it and the responsibility of choosing for her, lead them both to emotional deteriorations far in excess of the simple decision to take the job and move or not. Their mutual fear of admitting their feelings for each other is shown with a sweetly clever device involving an armchair, each referring to the other indirectly as they comment on how much they love a particular chair in Dave's apartment. This masking of their vulnerabilities is later stripped away, quite literally, (Jacobsen spends a large portion of the last act nude) as Dave's mental state of confusion and stress over his relationship with Mary causes him hallucinations and a revelation that we are all just ''bone, skin and hair''.

Rebecca Henderson hits just the right notes as Mary, the high-powered, corporate money-maker who is so frightened of her love for Dave that she can't even decide what shoes are appropriate. Her delivery is in turns sad and funny. Jacobsen's Dave takes a little while to gear up but is very convincing as a man who has lost too many "relationship years" (the years in a relationship combined with the proportionate number of years it takes to recover) and is so afraid of letting Mary in that he is perpetually getting into traffic accidents involving a mysterious blonde and begins to lose touch with reality.

Another stand-out is Sarah Silk as Michelle, the 21 year old French lover of 50 year old Ben (Christopher McCann). Though she is not long on stage, her final diatribe at Ben is a gem. When she discovers Ben's indiscretion with a neighbor, Celia (Linda Jones) a woman more in love with her car than her live-in boyfriend, and Ben's take that their 'great love' is only great if they are not together, Michelle's "woman-scorned" kicks in and their formerly "unimportant" age difference becomes a barbed weapon hurled with a French accent.

Any Festival series will, by its very nature, have some hits and some misses. While the love-lives of the characters here are fraught with 'misses', Double Vision is definitely a hit.

Double Vision
The Bleecker St. Theatre
45 Bleecker Street
(between Lafayette & Mott St)

Saturday 9/8 @ 2:30pm
Sunday 9/9 @ 9:15pm
Wednesday 9/12 @ 9:30pm
Thursday 9/13 @ 7:00pm
Saturday 9/15 @ 5:00pm
Sunday 9/16 @ 7:30pm

Tickets are $18 and are available at:
by calling 212-691-1555, or at the theater box office.

Photos: Jim Baldassare

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tom Crean - August 4, 2007

Stories of exploration and outdoorsy adventure have never had much draw for me. Yet I went to see Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer because it had two things going for it that drew me in: 1) I am very partial to solo shows, 2) The Irish Repertory Theatre's track record of good, solid material. I was not disappointed.

Aidan Dooley wrote and performs this charming, exciting, informative, and very funny piece with all the warmth and intimacy that is the legacy of Irish story-tellers.

Tom Crean (1877-1938) made three ill-fated trips to the Antarctic and yet is unknown. Scott, "only two trips" is world-famous. The reason is simple according to Crean - Scott kept a diary. "Diary - you're remembered; no diary - pffft". But happily Tom Crean is mentioned enough in the diaries of Scott and Shackleton (Crean served on Discovery and Terra Nova with Scott and on Endurance with Shackleton) and other source material that Dooley was able to weave together the character of the man and bring him to life on stage.

And Dooley does, truly, bring him to life. He is at once modern and natural without losing the flavor of the boy who, at 15, joined the Royal Navy to run away from his small town to see the world at the turn of the 20th century. (Apparently there was an issue with his father, a cow and a field of 'spuds' - I'll divulge no more). He is human, one of us - yet something apart because he did what so few of us do: endured unbearable hardship to follow his dream. He survived the savage cold and desolation of the Antarctic, in large part by following his mother's advice to "just get on with it" and by maintaining an indomitable sense of humor. I feel privileged to have met Crean through Dooley and have to admit that I'm intrigued enough now to go read Scott and Shackleton - and I have a feeling Crean will be there with me, reading over my shoulder and chuckling.

Not one to automatically jump to my feet, I have to truly be moved, I happily popped up along with the rest of the audience to give this wonderful performer a well-deserved standing ovation.

NOTE: I would like to take a moment to praise the house staff, from box office to ushers, at the Irish Rep for their wonderfully sunny attitudes, helpfulness and utter lack of pretension. I have run into surliness and boredom at some other theaters and feel compelled to comment on what a difference in the entire evening's experience a pleasant house staff can make. Thank you!

Tom Crean
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
(between 6th & 7th Avenues)
Tickets: 212-727-2737
Closes: September 9th
Running time: a touch under 2 hours (includes 15 min intermission)