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nytheatre.com review by Edward Elefterion
August 14, 2013
The cast of Somewhere Safer
Rigorously curated and highly competitive, FringeNYC is unofficially known as a kind of testing ground, a place to workshop new material that’s still in the development phase. This production of Somewhere Safer bears all the signs of material still in progress: a scattered script, awkward design, spirited acting, and broad-stroke directing. What the play has in spades is ideas. Lots of ideas.
Political philosophy and positioning, the meaning of responsibility, guilt, and the methods and costs of power are some of the main subjects covered in the torrential discourse, and the characters are more instruments that argue than people in danger or need. There’s not a jot of danger in the play, actually, yet I don’t think that’s what playwright Lauren Ferebee had in mind.
The central event from which before-and-after scenes explode is the bombing of a peaceful rally that kills a JFK-like presidential hopeful. The myriad characters include the hopeful’s brother who is reluctant when called upon to step up and run in his brother’s place, his “cause is nobler than us” wife, his protective and crafty speechwriter, an intern who gets too close to him for his (party’s) good – she also happened to date the bomber when he was a burgeoning college radical, the home-grown radical himself, the anchor for a FOX-like TV station, an elder statesman those-were-the-days media mogul, an independent photojournalist bent on going back to the middle-eastern front to take important photos, and the photographer he tries to talk into joining him but who prefers to take portraits in her private studio after an already harrowing time in the midst of heavy middle-eastern shelling. Ideas. A lot of ideas. The character description alone provides enough material for several electrifying plays, but Somewhere Safer literally layers them all atop one another, several times, in fact. The resulting cacophony is intentional, of course, but I’m not sure what goal it’s aiming for.
This kind of ripped-from-the-headlines material is important. But shaping it into something pointed and meaningful, even at the expense of those ideas that will invariably hit the cutting room floor, is even more important. Because without a laser-beam focus, the material more imitates the tower of Babel political causes and effects than teasing them apart and articulating enough to make us question our individual place inside such a system, which is what I think it really wants to do.
Playwright Lauren Ferebee lit enough of a powder keg to draw a spirited and gifted cast who all champion her ideas and meet the formidable challenge of expressing them head-on. I hope they continue to work on Somewhere Safer and I look forward to its future development.