nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 1, 2006
The most arresting thing about The Ride is where it's being staged: in a hallway (honest!) connecting an outside door with some kind of storage area in the backroom behind Jimmy's No. 43. Ten comfortable chairs are arrayed along one wall, where audience members quite literally eavedsrop on a conversation between Will (Denis Butkus), an electrician who has arrived here to restore the power following a vicious thunderstorm the night before, and Linn (Julie Kline), a woman who shouldn't be here but, inexplicably, is.
Daniel Talbott's staging of this site-specific show puts the two characters at opposite ends of the hall, which means that even though the space is shockingly intimate we usually can't get both characters in our line of vision at the same time. This makes Crystal Skillman's spare and enigmatic play as much about perspective as anything else. Linn, as we'll discover soon enough, could well be a ghost, or an apparition. How it is that Will can see and hear her is just one of the little mysteries that audience members are left to ponder when this miniature drama is concluded.
At just 20 minutes long, The Ride hardly constitutes an "evening of theatre" as we've come to understand it; it's part of an emerging aesthetic that wants to place a live play in the middle of a fuller evening of drinks, dinner, and socializing. Stop into Jimmy's or another East Village hangout for a drink, see The Ride (or the next Rising Phoenix show that comes along), then head out for dinner or to meet friends somewhere. The play will give you plenty of conversation for whatever the next stop turns out to be.
The Ride is also the second part of a proposed trilogy of ghost stories that Skillman is working on. I missed its predecessor, The Telling, but I have just read it; the two pieces in tandem are a grand, unsettling pair, and I can't wait to see how Skillman wraps the thing up with play #3. Together they should make for an intriguing and tantalizing evening of more traditional length.