nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
August 18, 2012
Letting go of a loved one can seem almost impossible. Especially, if the loved one dies unexpectedly without warning. Such tragedy and heartbreak is the subject of Andrew Joseph Clarke's highly emotional work, Outside Providence.
At curtain we meet Marshall, a playwright who's become a young widower. To work through the trauma of losing his girlfriend Ashley, he starts writing a play to explore his complicated feelings and then, hopefully, move on. He creates Cain, an image of himself, to re-enact,the scenes hes writing. As he starts delving into his desperation and despair, he also realizes that he must also work through the death of his estranged father, Terry. The next 75 minutes are filled with scenes where we jump from past to present. Sometimes Marshall's alter- ego plays the scenes, but then the line between fantasy and reality become blurry and Marshall plays some of the scenes with his ghosts. Marshall also includes his mother, Mary, into the mix, which helps us understand the family dynamic and the father even better. Yet he is not alone, he is often visited by his Aunt, who serves as his guide through the labyrinth of his mind.
As Marshall, Francisco De Jesus III, does a fine job breathing life into his role. His grief and torment is palpable, thus we are more than willing to go on his emotional roller-coaster ride. Cassandra Seale, does well at making Ashley the loveable affection of Marshall. We feel their connection and this aids us in understanding the depth of Marshall's pain. Russell Anthony Boyle, plays Marshall's image of himself adequately. However, he is more striking when he steps out of his written scenes and communicates with Marshall, helping him move forward in his journey. Tony Sallemi does a good job filling out his role as a bad father and husband.
I could not help but wish for more commitment from Karen McFarlane. She plays Marshall's mother but is only half believable. It seemed like she was having trouble connecting with her role. She was hard to hear, which further hindered her effectiveness. Similarly Lucia Cousins, has trouble fleshing out her role. Her character is meant to be ambiguous, but she seemed uncomfortable on stage, and not quite sure herself or her character.
I couldn't help but wonder if director Daniella Caggiano could have helped these actors flesh out their characters and, in turn, improve the impact of Outside Providence. Clarke, has written a play with raw emotional honesty. As such, there is great potential in this piece. This production does a fair job getting there.