Reviewed by Gregor Collins
The out-and-out doggedness that fuels The Seeing Place’s artistic choices is the theater company equivalent to Donald Trump and his border wall—they seem to have no misgivings about digging in to deep, dark, divisive material they know may only please half the audience. But as Gustav Klimt once said: “If you can’t please everyone with your deeds and your art, please just a few.”
Typically they do please me at least, but admittedly I had a better time at their previous work The Hysteria of Doctor Faustus. Their new work, though, two intense short plays in one evening, both two-handers, at least serves up the intensity you would expect from The Seeing Place: A Number, by Caryl Churchill, and ‘night, Mother, by Marsha Norman.
Churchill’s A NUMBER—a philosophical investigation into free will and the question of nature verses nurture—explores the issue of human cloning through the relationships between a father and his three sons.
Norman’s ‘NIGHT, MOTHER—winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama—begins with Jessie calmly telling her Mama that by morning she plans to commit suicide. The subsequent dialogue slowly reveals Jessie’s reasons for her decision.
Erin Cronican, Seeing Place’s Executive Artistic Director, directed the former and co-starred in the latter, and Brandon Walker, the Producing Artistic Director, directed the latter and co-starred in the former. These two are the hardest-working indie theater-makers in New York.
Despite the two scripts being penned by renowned playwrights, I wasn’t blown away by either show. Part of the problem, specifically with A Number, was that, for me, one half of the cast (again, there are only two people in it), was completely ineffectual. I’m still slightly flummoxed by why they wouldn’t have cast a better actor.
Brandon Walker, on the other hand—the “other half” of the cast, who adroitly plays three different “son” clones—much like a Joaquin Phoenix or a Colin Ferrell, has that innate dangerous quality to his work—you never quite know what he’s going to do next. That “unsettling” quality is not something you get treated to from most actors. There are moments his instincts fail him and he flirts with over-acting, but as he grows as an actor he’ll learn to harness that cauldron of chaos into consistently brilliant turns.
Regardless of what I thought about the evening, my relationship with The Seeing Place is like my relationship with one of my favorite filmmakers, Terrence Malick—though I don’t love everything he does, I’ll always see everything he makes.
A NUMBER / ‘NIGHT, MOTHER plays January 5-20, 2019
GENERAL ADMISSION – $30 (VIP tickets $40)
The Seeing Place @ the Paradise Factory
64 East 4th Street, NYC