CRACKED (upon a time)
nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
October 13, 2011
CRACKED (upon a time) is a battle of wits. Appropriately, it opens with the two characters Alfred and Percy sitting in chairs on opposite sides of the stage while the dueling piano and violin of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata play. Dressed like nineteenth century gentlemen, or hillbilly eccentrics, they sport much facial hair and have opinions about everything. However, they are reluctant to speak to each other. What is said is a verbal joust, a way to avoid loneliness or solipsism. What are the shared experiences they only allude to? What prevents Percy from getting up and leaving? What is love? Time can pass like a puff of smoke.
The action of CRACKED (upon a time) moves forward with something more advanced than a plot. Alfred knows everything so why shouldn’t Percy go off and learn the things he doesn’t know yet? But Alfred wants Percy to stay, until later on Alfred does encourage Percy to collect his thoughts somewhere else. Suddenly, Alfred is agitated. His eyes are wild, his voice is loud, and the lights swell. A Leonard Cohen quote appears here: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” The terror of being alone produces enlightenment, and Alfred vanishes. Meanwhile, Percy has returned with some conclusions of his own.
Playwright-director Josiah Houston has served up an engaging show with more questions than answers. I am a big fan of the costumes and hairpieces in this show. Congratulations to makeup consultant Matthew Keating. Dean Palmer, Jr.’s lighting is a call that lifts the characters (and possibly the audience) out of themselves. Brent Wellington Barker III as Alfred is fabulous at making it look easy to keep someone at arm’s length. Zebedee J. Row as Percy is similarly wonderful as he never gives up trying to get through to Alfred.