nytheatre.com review by Cate Cammarata
August 12, 2012
Mildred (Kerry Fitzgibbons) and James (Josh Bywater), both history teachers, are strangers who fall accidentally in love on an Amtrak train to Boston while bonding over shared passions of books, history and literature. As we are drawn into their love story, we next find ourselves in a sterile hospital waiting room watching two other strangers bond while waiting to hear news of loved ones involved in a tragic car accident.
The structure of this play is beautiful, allowing the audience to participate both in Mildred and James's love story at the same time that the second narrative develops in the hospital waiting room with Jessica (Tiffany May McRae) and Drew (Billy Weimer). Mildred and James stay onstage throughout, and we're there with them as they fall in love even after our focus shifts. Our ambivalence about their situation is reflected by their two sisters who understand the consequences of their unexpected romance, Polly Anna (Elanna White) and Beth (Janine Kyanko). Through these two stories the playwright, Amy E. Witting, pushes us to reconsider what is acceptable in the area of romance. Are we willing to trade off commitments made twenty years ago to pursue an intimate relationship that could be the greatest love of our life right now? Can we box in the person we are now by the vows made by someone we used to be? Are we willing to explore inconvenient passions? We watch as Mildred and James answer those questions for themselves.
Witting's strategy of juxtaposing scenes from two different time sequences while keeping both stories onstage at the same time is brilliant—the audience is literally in two different places at the same time. Although the action drags at some points, for the most part the witty dialogue and expert direction by Jacob Titus move the plot forward delightfully. Bywater and Fitzgibbons give a beautifully sensual portrayal of the lovers, and McRae is delightful as the frustrated wife throwing food at the back wall of the hospital. Elanna White's character of the "autistic spectrum" younger sister was at times overly intense and under-developed, but balanced by Janine Kyanko and Billy Weimer's authenticity. The simple lighting worked well at shifting our focus from story to story, but the production would have benefited from additional sound effects to define the separate specific locations.
Falling is a beautifully written play that forces us to stop and reconsider the curveballs that Fate sometimes throws at us.