We recently saw this new play off Broadway by The New Group directed by Scott Elliot and written by Tommy Nohilly, starring Ethan Hawke, Gordon Clapp, and Daphne Rubin-Vega. This was a real risk seeing the play so early because it was still in previews. But here was the catch, which I'm sure will draw other people. I'm not really a theater person so sad to report I'm usually drawn to plays by the playwright or a movie star. And in this case, since the writer is new on the block, it was Ethan Hawke and the work he chooses to do. So that was the risk we were willing to take. I even liked his movie Chelsea Walls, which he came and debuted here in person at the Brattle Theater several years ago. I love his collaborations with Richard Linklater, and he's a fantastic guest on Charlie Rose. He's just very bright about the process of acting and filmmaking and is great conversting on the subject, very inspiring. He's also a Gen X-er close to my age and I'm always identifying with a lot of his roles.
So let's talk about the play. It's worth noting Wallace Shawn was in the audience and it turns out he is resurrecting one of his plays in March with the same director, same theater group, so that might be worth checking out. I'm sorry but I can't help remembering that scene from Manhattan where Woody Allen calls him a "little homunculus".
Anyway, I liked the play. It's about a blue-collar family in Connecticut. Travis, played by Ethan, visits his family and all hell breaks loose. All sorts of crazy drama stuff. Not exactly my favorite subject...BUT I liked it. Here's why I liked it. The performances were across the board phenomenal. Part of the believability was the simple fact that because the Acorn is a very small theater, the actors aren't shouting their lines. So after a while it feels like you're just a fly on the wall. And the writing is very good. Ann Dowd and Gordon Clapp are amazing actors, you're just drawn in by them. Daphne Rubin-Vega and Ethan Hawke are great together, that romance felt really believable. I thought Ethan played it just right all the way through. This is a preview! And the performances were all just amazing.
Here's what I didn't like. Let's see how this play evolves over the next couple months in terms of the writing. Some of the dialogue felt a bit exaggerated. Do we really need to hear Ann Dowd's character screaming profanity after profanity at her husband? After a while it just borders on ridiculous. Even the casual profanity seems exaggerated -- okay, okay, I get it, they're blue-collar. The character of the sister seemed like it could be cut. She was great, but just one scene, why is she there? At almost 3 hours, the play feels too long. By the time the 2nd intermission rolls around, you don't want to wait for it, you want to keep going.
These are mostly minor points, they didn't keep me from really enjoying it. I'd be curious to read other comments on this play if anyone out there sees it. Anyone from NYC reading this is going to think oh yeah he's from Boston, of course he thought it was great. Well that's true now, we don't see too many plays out here in the boonies.