nytheatre.com review by Spencer Chandler
Faint, a new play written and directed by Eric Sanders, employs
an unconventional plot with a floating, open narrative. Centered loosely
on Jeromy, a young man whose parents have died and left him sole
proprietor of the family circus, Faint. introduces us early to
Jeromy's grandparents and a Native American sideshow performer named
Flying Jade. Soon into the story however, Jeromy's girlfriend Crocus is
diagnosed with cancer, and after a frenetic, almost vaudevillian
hospital scene, suddenly dies. This twist gives way to a subplot
involving a mortician and his father in flashback, who also dies of
cancer. In succession, one character after another suffers an untimely
demise, either by cancer or an accidental scourge of smallpox. The
remaining bulk of the intermissionless play consists of various scenes
involving a local scientist, his wife and young son, and the
complications and interrelationships that emerge amongst the disparate
characters. Yet despite a halting scene-to-scene progression and uneven
tone, Faint ultimately manages to move and affect, thanks to
writing of surprising depth and an altogether fine cast.
August 15, 2003
Michael Alperin quietly inhabits Jeromy with a low-key naturalism. Robert Salas as Flying Jade has a rich physical and vocal presence, and his scenes with charming pre-adolescent Gary Zhuravenko warm nicely as the play progresses. Devon Berkshire is fine though underused as Jeromy's girlfriend, with Elie Finkelstein and an exceedingly skilled Jess Osuna both grounded and touching as Jeromy's grandparents. The gifted Joseph Small goes straight over the top with the high-wired role of the scientist, and with Severin Anne Mason (pleasantly handling his wife) serves up some of the more openly satirical scenes. Robert Funaro and Ernest Mingione beautifully inhabit their characters of the mortician and his father with fullness and ease. Ron Palais, as Jeromy's lawyer, blossoms later in the play, when his character's writing kicks in.
Faint has quirks and charms and haunting absurdities ("You just ruined the world, Jake!" screams the scientist to his young son, who has unwittingly passed a smallpox-infested blanket to the non-vaccinated Native American). As his characters come to be diagnosed casually with rapidly progressing diseases, the play manages to touch many nerves, especially in the nuanced ways characters speak of their expiring health and fading dreams.
"We live our lives between moments of grief," says Grandpa near the end of the play. A lasting profundity lies at the heart of Faint which, under different direction and with some dramaturgical restraint, could well leap out and grab an audience with great force. Sanders has a rich imagination and a good ear for dialogue, and is in equally good company with an undeniably capable cast. I would be very interested to see them develop further, reaching their noble theatrical goals with even greater accuracy.