The Pool With Five Porches
nytheatre.com review by Tess Gill
August 13, 2006
I was intrigued by the premise of The Pool With Five Porches. The play is about two men who wait, along with an untold number of unseen others, at the edge of a mysterious pool (perhaps the purgatory of pain, perhaps the fountain of hope) believing that an angel occasionally descends to stir the waters, allowing the first person in to be healed of what ails them.
It is a brief play, clocking in at just under 45 minutes, and I appreciate that fact since we are given all the information needed to explore the given relationship and circumstance in this time. The writing, by Peter Zablotsky, is efficient while still being thoughtful.
We open with Man One (Scott Whitehurst) vehemently defending his spot at the edge of the pool. He has been struck with the plague and seeks to be made whole. Man Two (Kent Jackman) confronts him, also seeking to be healed from an unrelenting sorrow he has carried since his wife and child were murdered three years ago. Man One is reluctant to share his small space, which cost him four years of life making his way through the crowds. Man Two uses his wits to convince him that he can be of benefit, offering to procure food and resources for the two of them when needed. They strike a fragile agreement of coexistence understanding that each man is ultimately out for his own. A hesitant friendship then follows with its various twists and turns as the angel descends to test their bonds.
Although I appreciate the intriguing story and themes at work, I'm less engaged by the interpretation. We open with two overtly angry men, who continue to be overtly angry for half the play. I feel there are far more interesting choices to explore from the get-go.
The beginning sequence of defending the small space feels implausible. Man Two breezes in and takes the spot that took Man One four years to get to. If everyone is so desperate, why hadn't Man One, being so feeble, been ousted before now?
Kudos to set designer Walter Theodore for making the most of a Fringe setting. A simple stretch of carpet defines the porches as well as the pool (waves on the black cloth make up the water). I did wish the actors would be more attentive physically to where the porch ends and the water begins (or perhaps the porch could be bigger if that's too difficult).
Overall, the play certainly has a Beckett feel to it. We are made to wonder, does the pool really heal? And what does it mean to be healed? Interesting questions, and the friendship surrounding them is equally interesting. This is a play that doesn't bring up any new ideas, but explores ideas we continually ask. Do we learn something new from it? I'm not sure just yet. I'm curious to see if it develops further.