nytheatre.com review by Nicole Watson
June 3, 2007
The collection of plays in EST's one-act Marathon might best be described as examinations of the human heart, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Of course in matters of the heart, distinguishing between the two is never easy. Is a good heart the one that hurts or the one that can withstand the pain of loss and betrayal?
The evening opens with Billy Aronson's The News. Sitting in her hospital bed, Karen tries to tell her friends—in between their ringing cell phones—that she has been diagnosed with an incurable disease. Although trying to handle the information with some degree of stoic optimism, the arrival of her husband with balloons in hand unleashes the rage, fear, and sadness that come with knowing that death is inevitable. Rather than accept the news, he is convinced that a second opinion will provide the appropriate cure. However in Aronson's hospital room, laughter becomes the best medicine. Geneva Carr offers a fantastic performance as Karen, capturing an immense sadness underneath her cheery, candid exterior. She and Grant Shaud make a wonderful couple and they move seamlessly from absurd hostility to a bittersweet and beautiful end.
In My Dog Heart by Edith Freni, love is literally a seven stage disease brought on by "love bites" and figurative "heart worms," and the play reads like a tragedy for the urban hipster. The Lady, played by Pepper Binkley, contracts a bad relationship from her emotionally unavailable boyfriend. The cure for the disease is a heart transplant: either a dog heart and the continued instability of feeling, or a robot heart which offers the security of a mechanical tick-tock. The ensemble work is well done but the characters are edgy, emotionally numb, and above it all so that the failed relationship is hardly tragic and I wondered if the play was about love or our unrequited and unhealthy obsessions.
Interestingly enough the ice thaws in Julia Cho's beautiful piece, The First Tree in Antarctica. Kate Whoriskey's simple and straightforward staging honors the image of the vast and empty tundra yet makes room for the weight and warmth of Cho's story. Michi Barall is subtly radiant as Sylvie, a young woman who dreams of Antarctica. The dreams are metaphors for a long-ignored pain that has resurfaced and Cho's inclusion of the play's title into the overall narrative provides a lovely and powerful turn.
Wendy MacLeod's The Probabilities suggests that we should take Mother Nature seriously. In this solo piece, Bruce MacVittie is a beleaguered and weathered weatherman. The weather is an "act of God," and deserves as much attention as any man-made event. His engaging presentation begins with examples of historic meteorological disasters and then turns into a personal account of the loss of his son. MacVittie's performance stands out in the evening's selections for its tempered passion and conviction.
Ending the evening is Neil LaBute's The Things We Said Today, a play about the possible consequences of marital infidelity. If left to a less skilled writer, the references to Medea could mar the piece as a diluted modern-day Greek tragedy. Thankfully this is not the case. Dana Delany confronts her husband, played with feigned arrogance and pomp by Victor Slezak, in a restaurant after a day of holiday shopping. Refusing to go in peace, Delany's character wonders what it takes for individuals to make decisions of epic Nietzschean proportions. Delany's performance is composed and captivating. She promises her husband that their relationship will have a "spectacular" and "awe-inspiring" end and judging from the collective gasp at the end of her performance, she delivers.