Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: A Haunting Journey of Loss

Death. “We all have it in common, like sports or the weather,” the Woman says in Hamish Linklater’s hauntingly exquisite play The Vandal. Death is the common thread for the three characters, none of who are afraid to talk about it. Each character in the play has experienced loss, as a result of death, that ultimately shapes their grievance in very different ways.
The Vandal follows the chance meeting of Woman and Boy at a bus stop in Kingston, New York. Woman has finished a visit at the hospital while Boy has finished a visit at the adjacent cemetery. While the small talk of lies lead to secrets and revelations, Boy convinces Woman to buy him alcohol, leading to the chance meeting between Woman and Man, owner of the nearby liquor store, both of whom lost their spouse. Without revealing any of the intricate and clever plot twists, Woman forms a bond with both Man and Boy and discovers the mysterious relationship between Man and Boy. Through stories and deceit, no one is truly who they appear to be.
It’s difficult to talk about the plot in detail because Linklater has crafted a realistic yet supernatural script so clever and whole that you can only urge someone to see the play and experience the beauty for themselves. The language in which Linklater writes is colloquial and significant. Some of the best moments are during Boy’s comedic, insightful monologues with Woman brought delightfully to life by Noah Robbins. Robbins gives an A+ performance as Boy, bringing spirit and impact to the truly lost soul. Robbins is greatly aided by his always-tremendous scene partner, Deirdre O’Connell. O’Connell, the only actor who never leaves stage, leads us on this journey with ease. O’Connell has such power and heart as Woman that you feel for her the more she opens up and reveals her past. Rounding out the cast is Zach Grenier as Man. Grenier has a bit of gruffness in his performance that is drastically different form Robbins and O’Connell, but that may be the direction he wanted to take his character.
Jim Simpson does a sublime job leading the cast through Linklater’s script. By the end, Simpson takes great consideration of keeping the story real when the plot could potentially lead toward a bad joke if gone in the wrong direction. The overall design of the show is cohesive. David M. Barber does a nice job allowing the multi-location play to live in the intimate theater. The only choice that I would have wished was a bit cleaner was the downstage scenic element that was covered with fabric until it is revealed for the last scene. The only other criticism I can find in this near flawless production is the sudden blackout when the bus does pass by.
If you’re looking for a beautiful night at the theater that will captivate you from start to finish, look no further than The Vandal at The Flea. From first rate acting to a timely script, The Vandal soars and offers a well-rounded production.