From White Plains
The Studio Theatre at Pershing Square Signature
Directed by Michael
Cast: Craig Wesley
Divino, Aaron Rossini, Jimmy King, and Karl Gregory.
Design team: Tristan
Jeffers (set design), John Eckert (lighting design),
Jessica Wegener Shay (costume design) and Chad
Raines (sound design).
Reviewed by Frank
Bullying is a very
important, very current theme that should be explored
in all mediums. The more dialogue created the
So many of us have
been angered and saddened by the rash of teen
suicides--that continues--because of bullying.
I was so infuriated
and devastated by the Rutgers travesty that I
wrote my own play, titled, Consent, about
a sixteen-year-old boy, living in a small town,
struggling with his sexuality and being bullied
because of that struggle. I write this not to
promote my own work, but to show just how much
I have invested in this specific subject matter.
The good news is
that writer/director Michael Perlman takes the
subject matter very seriously and has written
a thoughtful and thought-provoking new drama that
explores forgiveness in a way that is rarely seen
in the theatre. So often his characters simply
admit they have no idea what to say--and how refreshing
and real is that!
Plains was developed as a company collaboration
based on true experiences. This four-character
piece is pretty potent stuff and asks pertinent
questions about responsibility, empathy and retribution--refusing
to necessarily answer them.
The play opens
with two straight BFFs John (Craig Wesley Divino)
and Ethan (Aaron Rossini) watching the Oscars
(I know, but straight men watch them, too!). They
are flummoxed when Ethan's full name is mentioned
in a writer's acceptance speech as the cause of
We then meet the
Oscar-winning writer Dennis (Karl Gregory) and
his significant other, Gregory (Jimmy King). Dennis
has just won for his film, White Plains,
an autobiographical story (from 15-years ago)
about a gay teen who takes his own life after
being bullied and made to feel inferior by a classmate
named Ethan. Dennis is on a mission to destroy
Ethan, who responds by posting a video of apology
which begins a video-posting war between the two.
Gregory feels Dennis is being too militant and
should be more compassionate.
Ethan is, at first,
incredibly (and understandably) defensive, but
begins to show signs of regret as John points
out his homophobia and begins to distance himself
from Ethan. There is a slight homoerotic undercurrent
between the two that make them all the more fascinating.
relationship is a bit problematic. Gregory feels
more like a device than a fully-rounded character
and I never understood why he and Dennis were
together to begin with. I get where Perlman was
going with the Gregory character but I felt alienated
by him so I never really cared about his point
of view. I did not feel that about the other three.
Consequently, I take issue with how the play ends.
But I will leave it at that so as not to spoil
As director, Perlman
gives his actors a lot of room to do what they
do best. But sometimes that results in long, long
pauses that take the audience out of a powerful
moment. A little tightening and beat-removal could
go a long way towards making the play wholly-riveting.
Along the same lines, every once in a while the
play takes things a bit TOO seriously. Example:
when Ethan uses the word "faggot," there
is a deliberate silence afterwards. But then that
silence goes on a few beats too long. We get it.
Craig Wesley Divino
gives the strongest most nuanced performance of
the four. We feel John's confusion and understand
Aaron Rossini does
the impossible, which is make us feel sympathy
for a bully. Ethan is struggling with who he was,
who he is and what he may become.
Dennis is bit arrogant
and cocksure (as written) but Karl Gregory scratches
beyond the superficial and boldly embodies a man
who has made it his mission to seek justice. Gregory
is particularly moving in his delivery of an insightful
and devastating speech in the play's penultimate
In that explanation
of what life was and is like for Dennis, the lasting
and damaging effects of bullying are brought to
the forefront--the play rightly asks it's audience
to meditate on their own history and actions.
The answers are not always comfortable or pretty.
Plains is playing at The Studio Theatre at
Pershing Square Signature Center (480 W. 42nd
Street, in Manhattan) until March 9, 2013.
Theatre at Pershing Square Signature Center| 480
W 42nd St | Midtown West
Tuesday - Friday @ 8:00pm
Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Feb 21, 2013 - Closes Apr 21, 2013
Cherry Lane Theater
Directed by Kip
Reviewed by Frank J. Avella
"I am like
open book," septuagenarian Maria (Vanessa
Redgrave) says to her second cousin, twentysomething
writer, David (Jesse Eisenberg), taunting him
to ask her about her past. This woman, masterfully
played by one of our true acting treasures, is
anything but an open book. She is as complex and
enigmatic as they come and Ms. Redgrave's luminous
portrayal is one the great joys of the theatre
season and elevates Jesse Eisenberg's fascinating,
exasperating new play, The Revisionist,
to levels of transcendence.
Maria is a holocaust
survivor living in Poland. As the play opens she
hilariously stumbles around her apartment and
opens the door to reveal her cousin David who
has traveled from New York to Szczecin, Poland
to work on revisions for his science fiction novel.
There is an immediate
clash--not only cultural--but of two very strong,
conflicting personalities. Both disappoint the
other. Maria was hoping for a thoughtful relative
who would want to spend time with her and get
to know her. David was hoping for someone who
would stay out of his way.
She becomes upset
when he won't eat the chicken she's prepared for
him. (He's a vegetarian, which she finds, "silly.").
He is irritated by the fact that she keeps answering
her phone. (Her phone is constantly ringing with
telemarketers wanting money for the blind and
she always answers and kindly says no in Polish.)
He hates that she's framed the negative review
the New York Times gave his "young adult"
book. She's upset that he won't sign it for her.
Before too long
the two have established a bond. One forged out
of loneliness and eventual empathy and understanding.
There is a third
character, Zenon (Daniel Oreskes), a taxi driver
who likes to drink. He seems to be Maria's only
friend—a friend who enjoys washing Maria's
feet and then shaving her legs. Maria allows him
his odd proclivity since he does it for sentimental
reasons. In turn, he takes her where she needs
to go. It's a bizarre relationship (not as bizarre
as Maria's and David's), made stranger by the
fact that most of their dialogue is spoken in
Polish, but they seem to truly care for one another.
at 76, commands the stage in a way only a true
artist can. This is her home (in an impressively
detailed set by John McDermott), one she has spent
years creating for herself, right down to the
placement of the many photos that grace her apartment.
This divine acting
force allows us into the mind, body and soul of
a tortured old woman with charm and grace. It's
a riveting, enchanting performance. Rarely do
we get to see such layers from an actor. A simple
caress moved me beyond words. A look of disappointment
had me welling up. There aren't enough superlatives
to describe what Ms. Redgrave accomplishes in
Kudos to Jesse
Eisenberg for creating such a vibrant part. I
did not see his previous work, Asuncion,
but with The Revisionist, he certainly
proves he's a dramatist that should be taken seriously.
As author, he sometimes
strains to be clever and important. And the character
he creates for himself to play spends too much
of the early portion of the play being overly
petulant and alienating--to the point where even
the sweetest; most doting of relatives would kindly
toss him out that window he keeps opening to take
hits off a joint.
David is a self-indulgent
asshole of the first order--so much so that in
the second half of the play, when he finally shows
signs of vulnerability, it's a stretch to believe
the transformation. And the only reason we do
is because Maria does. Redgrave's Maria believes
in him and that is all we need.
Alas, there is
more to David’s seeming one-dimensionalism.
Eisenberg, via his character, appears to be negatively
commenting on today's arrogant twentysomethings
and their inability to give a shit about the generations
that have come before them.
The play is beautifully
directed by Kip Fagan, who is smart enough to
allow Redgrave to simply work her magic. And there
are so many amazing moments. In particular, and
reminiscent of Sophie's Choice, is Maria's
revelatory explanation of what happened when she
was four, followed by an even more startling confession
a few hours later. It is in these later scenes
that The Revisionist becomes more than
just a good kitchen sink drama with a titan at
The play's ending
is abrupt and clunky. I appreciated Eisenberg
not wanting to bog down in sentiment but a few
more minutes could have been spent on fleshing
Maria's final motivations out a bit.
But there is so
much to recommend. Besides being a broad comment
on the old and new as well as cultural differences,
the play questions the definition of family. And
finds intriguing answers.
Many died in the
holocaust. Many survived, but their souls died.
Still others found a way to reinvent themselves
and live some semblance of a life. Damaged but
determined, Maria is a survivor. And as embodied
by Ms. Redgrave, she is a wholly defiant, believable
Cherry Lane Theater
| 38 Commerce Street | West Village