Sunday, April 21, 2013

New One Act Soars Beyond the Intimate Boundaries of the Duplex Stage

On Wednesday I caught the last (for now at least) performance of Aaron Mark’s one act play Another Medea upstairs at the Duplex. This is not a modern Medea. It is not Medea in drag. It is not funny, although it has some good laughs as human dramas always have. It is a conversation about how someone comes to lose himself so completely that he does dreadful things. It is an exploration, an investigation, and it is heart-breaking. We are not complicit in the acts, we don’t approve, but we are filled with dread as we comprehend.

Tom Hewitt walks onto the Duplex stage as the Writer, a tall and handsome man, unassuming, and a bit uncertain. He is here, he tells us, to talk to Marcus, who hasn’t spoken to anyone in years, but after a lengthy correspondence has agreed to talk to this unnamed writer. He is unnamed because this is not about him. It’s about Marcus. The stage is empty but for a table, with a file folder on it, and a chair. Mr. Hewitt walks behind the table and sits in the chair facing us. Once he removes his glasses, he becomes Marcus.

Marcus, an actor who must tend bar to make ends meet and shares a Queens apartment with two others, is in his 40s when he discovers love. This man holds us rapt in his gaze for over an hour. He tells us a story and plays all the parts in it, without ever leaving that chair. His face and his voice become other people in the split second it takes for dialogue to bounce back and forth. Mr. Hewitt, while barely moving his body, becomes ten people during the play.

Playwright and director Aaron Mark asks many questions in this modern study of ordinary people which finally resolve into a story that all too closely parallels that of Medea. He questions human fascination with that awful story century after century after century. In Another Medea, Marcus’s lover is even named Jason. Near the end, Jason denies doing and saying something that starts the spiral toward destruction, and it was all I could do to keep from crying out “You LIAR! You did!” We are invested in Marcus, feel his joys and his hurts. Empathy in the situation brought about by Marcus and Jason and Jason’s sister (all played by Mr. Hewitt) holds us in our seats until the final horrific moments. Then silence falls.

Mr. Mark’s script is intricate, layered, emotional, and chockful of life even though it runs just over an hour. Mr. Hewitt’s performance is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Another Medea at the Duplex was an intimate piece in an intimate space, and that makes for a powerful evening of theatre. Keep an eye and ear out for a return of this play.

Two Acts Too Many 

On Thursday I saw a production of August Strindberg’s The Dance of Death in a new adaptation by Mike Poulton. We’d looked forward to the Red Bull Theater’s production because we’d enjoyed the company’s productions several times in the past year or two. Alas, the evening played only two notes — one each for the usually charming Daniel Davis as Edgar and one for the shrill Laila Robins as Alice. A cipher appeared as the third character in the overlong first act. The best part of the second act was that Ms. Robins found a second note, and that it was shorter than the first act. Director Joseph Hardy created no levels, no rhythms, no reason for anyone to go the long way west to the Lucille Lortel Theater.

Oh well.  We’ve seen lots of good stuff lately, and were due for a disappointing dud.

~ Molly Matera, signing off to ponder her birthday present to William Shakespeare.

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