nytheatre.com review by David Vining
March 17, 2010
Throwing Bones' New York debut of their Seattle Fringe hit Anaphylaxis is well worth the trip to IRT Theater on Christopher and Hudson. The play is a cautionary tale, set in a future world where genetic modification has backfired. Scientist Frank and his test subject Ana appear to seek a cure for her apparent allergy to everything.
Though the sci-fi thriller concept promises twists and turns and plot galore, the fireworks in Anaphylaxis are generated by the performances of the two leads. Mary Jane Gibson, who also wrote the play, portrays Ana with great feeling and even greater specificity. In one of the opening moments of the piece she conveys her distaste for a formula she is made to drink so well that I practically tasted it myself. In the small personal moments Gibson is especially superb. Her physical presence combined with a gaze that manages to exude both blank slate and empathetic heroine entrance both the audience and scientist Frank.
As played by Scott Nath, Frank also presents an interesting duality; but his is a bit darker. Frantic, bumbling, and loveable on the surface, a deviant complicity and guilt lurks under the surface in Nath's portrayal that drives Frank to keep secrets even as he tries to endear himself to his subject. Nath's performance is also physically masterful. This consistent attention to detail is the hallmark of Sheila Daniels's assured direction.
Gibson's script is strongest when dealing with the vagaries and intimacies, both real and imagined, between Ana and Frank. As a potboiler it never really gets rolling and the political commentary is of the organic Madagascar vanilla variety. When the final revelation comes it is more confession than surprise. And though the final act is emotionally effective, it lacks punch. But its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.
Special shout-out must go to Dan Glass, credited with "Console Design." His console's various glowing parts act as the key elements of set, prop, and lighting design. They lend an instant verisimilitude to the future world of Anaphylaxis and make the simplicity of the rest of the play work.
Anaphylaxis is a serious and well-presented work of independent theater made by seriously talented artists. It has all the earmarks of potential and here's hoping Throwing Bones and Mary Jane Gibson bring more of their work to the New York scene.