four unfold: a story with song
nytheatre.com review by Natasha Yannacanedo
July 15, 2007
Katie Lemos, the writer and director of four unfold, begins the show with an inviting smile and a heartfelt welcome. She radiates warmth and love. Lemos gives the standard spiel about turning off cell phones and introduces the play in such a manner that you really want to fully embrace the journey of the show.
four unfold tells the story of four friends. One of them, Tess, has contracted HPV (the human papillomavirus; a sexually-transmitted virus that affects both women and men). As the show progresses, her HPV develops into cervical cancer. Lemos educates us about HPV in the program, but I felt she should educate us more about the virus in the actual text of the play. But four unfold is a play about characters instead of a driving plot. I wanted the characters' relationships with one another to fuel the journey of the show.
I appreciate Lemos's serious subject matter of HPV; most people are still very ignorant about this virus and I love that she deals with this topic. However, she drops a vital monologue about Tess contracting HPV at the top of the show, and I found myself struggling to remember the details of that first monologue for the rest of the play. Also, there is a narration device that this play does not need and interrupts the flow; in one particular place it is just plain cheesy.
Abigail Taylor does not display the emotional depth necessary for the complex role of Tess. She fails to elicit the empathy we as an audience so desperately want to feel for this character. Perhaps she was having an off night and could not quite access the emotional availability she needed for this performance.
Jonathan Greg gives an incredibly solid and committed performance as Aden, a man coming to terms with the meaning of commitment, being true to himself, and rejoicing in new found love.
Sarah Spritzer as Annie makes this play worthwhile. Her acting is specific, exuberant, and refreshingly delightful. She is genuine and authentic in her approach to the work.
TJ Moss is perfectly cast as the easy going Sam. With his big, adorable smile and positive energy, you can't help but like him. Overall, his acting is effortless and smooth. He has great charisma. Moss sings several songs with a comforting, familiar voice, but I could not make out many of his lyrics. I felt frustrated because I wanted to know how the songs were supporting the story.
Moss and Spritzer's incredible sexual tension throughout the play keeps you very intrigued and engaged. However, I left feeling unsatisfied that they never kiss even though the implication at the end seems to be that their relationship will turn romantic.
I attended opening night and the show received a standing ovation. Lemos has some wonderful characters, great subject matter, and beautiful words. However, I would love for her to work on the plot structure and cut the narration device. All in all, four unfold is definitely a play worth seeing.