|Thomas Piper encounters a giant avian postman in Afterlife. (Don't ask.)|
So I owe the New Rep big time.
And now, ummm . . . it's time to review Afterlife . . . and ummmm . . . oh, dear. I really don't know what to say. But I do want to say something nice. (I never have this kind of problem with the carnies who run the A.R.T. I'm happy to tell the truth about them!)
But okay, here's what I can say about Afterlife that is absolutely, one-hundred-per-cent true: the New Rep is really much better than this.
Because sorry, I can't recommend Steve Yockey's play; it's basically the first half of Rabbit Hole slammed into the second half of Euridyce, and it feels very padded and kind of pointless, and it's really only ready (at best) for a staged reading. But instead, for reasons unknown, it's getting a rolling premiere across the country; this is perhaps what is most mysterious about this supernatural mystery (or whatever the hell it is). To be absolutely fair, Yockey does, finally, get to some intriguing material about three-quarters of the way through his script - but then he seems to think his work is done, and he rings down the curtain even as the stunned audience all but whispers aloud "It's - over? But it was just getting going!"
Okay - I've clearly no love for Steve Yockey; but it's also absolutely true the New Rep has mounted a very strong production of this very weak material. There is fine work from the entire cast, but particularly from Marianna Bassham, Georgia Lyman, and Dale Place (above, with Thomas Piper). The design is at a strikingly high standard, and the evening even features the literal destruction of a full-scale house by a tidal wave (I'm not kidding). Mr. Yockey's tsunami may leave an immense amount of talent high and dry, but you have to recognize that talent just the same.
And I'll also note, I think, that this playwright is associated with Dad's Garage - the former Atlanta haunt of New Rep artistic director Kate Warner. It seems to me this is not the first time a rather curious play in the New Rep's season has had some connection with that theatre. And so I've begun to wonder whether it's time for the New Rep to wave dear old Dad good-bye, pull out of his Garage for good, and take to the open road. For there are better, more challenging plays out there than are dreamt of in that theatrical body shop - indeed, we'll see a few of them, like Passing Strange, later this year - and the New Rep clearly has the brains and talent to do them justice.
And thanks again guys, for saving my gym bag.