The Cascade Falls
nytheatre.com review by Anthony C.E. Nelson
August 29, 2007
The Cascade Falls, a new play by Adam Michael Cohen, is an arresting portrait of the disintegration of a relationship. Bat Country's crisp production is an enjoyable experience, even if the play is a little uneven.
Cohen's story has one of the more surprising beginnings I've experienced in a while. On stage as the lights come up is a coffin mounted on a dais. We hear moaning sounds from inside it, that at first are vaguely reminiscent of zombie groaning, and then rapidly turn sexual. The coffin lid flies open, and out pop Angie and Peter, fresh from a sexual encounter. They're at the funeral of a guy named Will, who they both claim to have had only a slight relationship with. Rather than stick around and see the body, the pair decide an early morning trip to a bar is in order. When Angie's back is turned, we see Peter do a bump of cocaine, foreshadowing an issue that will resurface later on. The relationship moves quickly, and soon we see their shared apartment. Peter works as an advertising exec, while Angie works on her art career. Their relationship starts to fray, as conflict starts to emerge between Peter's high-powered responsibilities as an executive and Angie's less tangible responsibilities as an artist.
Angie and Peter each spend time with someone who resembles the departed Will, a work buddy for Peter and an art student for Angie, and we start to see that their relationships with Will went much deeper than they let on. The depth of these connections starts to show through in flashback sequences, while Angie and Peter's inability to communicate about their issues sets them on a dangerous course.
I found Peter and Angie's tumultuous relationship much more interesting than their respective connections to Will, which weren't always fully fleshed out. Lucas Beck is wonderful as Peter, clearly portraying the shifts in Peter's personality as his substance abuse gets worse. He masters the character's charm and humor as well as his shame, anger, and occasional viciousness. Kristen Scoles creates a sharp and clever Angie, making unusual and very watchable choices that effectively portray a character that, as written, seems like a very different person from scene to scene. I felt Samuel Whitten was more interesting as Angie's art student and Peter's work buddy than he was as Will, but part of that is because Will's scenes seem less connected to the disintegration of Angie and Peter's relationship than they probably should. Angie's scenes with him, in particular, seemed to belong to a different play. Despite this, director Ryan Hemphill has crafted a sharp, taut production, with assistance from Ian Merrigan's excellent fight choreography and Jennifer Rathbone's spare, precisely considered lighting.
Cohen's dialogue is crisp, and he has written a number of fabulous scenes in The Cascade Falls. I simply felt that Angie and Peter were damaged enough on their own to create a dramatic situation, and the connection to Will always felt a little bit tenuous. As Angie says towards the end, "We are horrible people. We've done horrible things." True, but it's a lot of fun watching them do them.