Sunday, February 17, 2008

Review - Providence (Maieutic Theatre Works)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

Despite the prodigious amounts of Off-Off Broadway theatre produced in New York each year, it’s rare to find a genuinely strong production that features a compelling story and is both well-acted and well-directed. Fortunately for all of us, the Maieutic Theatre Works production of Cody Daigle’s Providence, currently playing a limited run at the View Theatre of the Roy Arias Theatre Center, is such a show. This taut, emotional play about love, guilt, and resilience is not to be missed.

Providence tells the story of two men brought together by a shared tragedy – a deadly plane crash. Mark (Douglas Scott Sorenson), a young gay schoolteacher, lost his best friend, Sara (Kathryn Ekblad). Neil (Anthony Crep) lost his wife, Jo (Ally Wirth). Drawn together by a pain they can’t share with even the most sympathetic friends, the two meet, trying to find some solace. Both have their moments of strength and of crippling guilt, but their unlikely friendship helps them move forward and heal.

This is not to imply that this play is only about the men. Both Sara and Jo have stories to tell. Most of their scenes are told in flashback, which thanks to some crisp directing on the part of Ian Crawford, moves seamlessly from present to past and back again.

Crisp could well be the unifying principle of this play. Daigle’s dialogue is tight and realistic. Crawford’s directing is strong and clear. Craig M. Napoliello’s spare, simple set is clean and bright. The sound, lighting, and costume design (Duncan Cutler, Rebecca Makus, and Angela Curcuru, respectively) reinforce the crisp feel of the production. The only thing that isn’t crisp, that is messy and oh so real, is the raw emotion and power provided by Sorenson, Crep, Ekblad, and Wirth. The Zen-like canvas on which these emotions are displayed, only serves to make them that much stronger.

The acting is excellent. Sorenson shows good range with his character and terrific chemistry with the talented Ekblad. Crep and Wirth are outstanding as the married couple. Their opening scene, clearly set after a particularly bad fight, is squirmingly realistic. Wirth in particular excels in showing Jo’s flinty strength, which makes the final scene, the only scene between Jo and Sara, so much more poignant. All four actors are to be commended for their splendid work. Every moment of this play feels immediate and real.

It’s sad to say, but plays like Providence don’t come around often. Even less common are productions of this caliber. Maieutic Theatre Works has created a beautiful and touching work of art. It is not to be missed.

Directed by Ian Crawford
Producers: M. Antonio MiniƱo and Julie Griffith
Associate Producers: Cristina Alicea and David Stallings
Set Designer: Craig M. Napoliello
Costume Designer: Angela Curcuru
Lighting Designer: Rebecca Makus
Sound Designer: Duncan Cutler
Stage Manager: Ashley Kosier
Sound Board Operator: Kevin Swanlund
Production Assistant: Carolina Almont
Press Agent: Katie Rosin/Kampfire Films PR
Poster/Postcard Designer: Felipe Leon

Featuring Douglas Scott Sorenson (Mark Langer), Anthony Crep (Neil Gray), Kathryn Ekblad (Sara Kass), and Aly Worth (Jo Gray).

The View Theatre, Roy Arias Theatre Center
300 W. 43rd Street, 5th Floor

February 7-24Thurs.-Sat. 8 PM; Sunday 3 and 7 PM.

Visit http://www.theatermania.com for tickets.