nytheatre.com review by Saviana Stanescu
August 12, 2008
Aron Ezra's play WALLS pays tribute to Eugene Ionescu and Christopher Durang by having an absurdist premise: a couple wakes up one day—the day of their anniversary, actually—and realizes in shock that a wall has appeared out of nowhere in their upper middle-class house and divided everything in two: the bed, the room, the kitchen, the childhood dolls of the wife, etc. Even the fish in the fish tank are now half-fish that are still magically swimming. As the husband still has to go to work (on Wall Street probably), the wife—a teaching assistant for whose grad studies her significant other is paying—stays at home, desperately trying to make sense of this wall-thing. The husband comes back, climbing through the bathroom window because he's too overweight to fit through the main door, and the two of them set up to destroy this strange apparition that has disturbed their daily routine on such a special day. The wall doesn't give any sign of becoming thinner or more transparent until the two of them figure out what works on it, instead of sledge hammers and other sharp objects.
I am not going to spoil the suspense by revealing what has effect on that wall—a transparent metaphor for the distance that grew between the two domestic partners—but I guess everybody has figured it out already. Anyway, the writing is smart and witty and manages to reveal most of the quite predictable problems of a couple in a fresh way. We all know what this is all about and where it is going, but still the writing and the acting are so good that we can take the journey, waiting to see how the last blow at the end will sound. It sounds as expected but again—it wasn't boring to take the ride.
The actors, Julie Jesneck and Adam Richman, are very strong, bringing powerful nuance to the lines and the actions. My small disappointment is the directing, although I understand the limits that a FringeNYC show poses: the play has such a juicy absurdist premise that one would expect it to be more interestingly exploited visually. A realistic set doesn't seem the best choice in this case. The actors are great but even they have trouble making that wall "alive" on stage. It's not clear when/why they can see through the "wall" and what is the progression of the wall's growing transparent toward its disappearance. When realistic and non-realistic elements are mixed, the convention has to be extremely clear, and the "walls" between the two plans excitingly drawn. That doesn't happen here. I hope director Markus Potter looks upon this as a starting point for a fully-developed future production.