|Joel Colodner, Adrianne Krstansky and Christine Power in Three Viewings. Photo by Andrew Brilliant.|
For those who appreciate the fine art of acting, I'd say that Three Viewings (at the New Rep through Dec. 18) may be required viewing. The script itself, by Jeffrey Hatcher, is a set of three highly (almost ostentatiously) crafted solos for individual actors - all, we slowly realize, on the themes of love and death; indeed, all are set in the same funeral home (God, I seem to be seeing a lot of this kind of thing these days, but that's not Hatcher's fault). This up-and-coming playwright [Whoops! Rob Whiner-Kendt, of the "Wicked Stage" blog, wants you to know the play is from 1994, and that Hatcher is not "up and coming," but rather an aging hack who wrote at least one good play that is making the regional rounds; he is better known - as far as he IS known - for forgettable movies like "The Duchess." Thanks Rob! Now back to the review.] strikes me, after a second exposure (his A Picasso played at Merrimack last year), as quite clever and certainly skilled, if not highly original. Some of his scenarios push the edge of credibility (are there really jewel thieves who nibble the earrings right off corpses? - much as I enjoyed this metaphor, I found it a hard sell), and the tone of his script is familiar from Six Feet Under and other cable fodder (like a lot of playwrights, Hatcher has had most of his success writing screen- and tele-plays, and something of the conceptual limits of those formats has leaked back into his stage work).
Still, there is that craft, whether it's ostentatious or not (just about every detail Hatcher drops in exposition he returns to as he ties up his narrative bow at the finish). And the playwright juggles various metaphors with ease, while conjuring distinct voices for his characters; all that (plus his Rod-Serling-esque Twilight-Zone sense of irony) leads to a lot of pleasing turns and dips in his narrative line. After a slow start, Three Viewings definitely hooks you, and teases you expertly until its satisfying, campfire-story conclusion.
Of course, it's hard not to get hooked on a narrative line with actors like these as bait. All three of the performers at the New Rep - Joel Colodner, Christine Power, and Adrianne Krstansky - are stalwarts of the local scene, and under Jim Petosa's nuanced direction (and on Cristina Todesco's elegant set), all are either holding to their usual high standards or (in one case) completely transcending them. Colodner probably seems the least secure in his performance right now; but then he's the opening act, so he has to somehow sell the whole concept, and to be honest, his storyline is the simplest, and weakest, of the three - although it's not without interest, and does eventually open up to reveal an affecting depth. (Hatcher is a pretty good critic of his own stuff - he has cannily structured the evening so it builds to his best work.)
The next two "episodes" (sorry) are more satisfyingly complicated, and slide smoothly back and forth between complex moral questions. To Hatcher's tale of a funerary thief with a devastating secret, Christine Power brings a confidently smug corporate finish, along with an intriguingly wounded emotional undertow (and a precise command of detail). But it's really Adrianne Krstansky who walks off with the show in the last and best vignette. As a naïve matron who discovers her dead husband was hardly the man she thought he was, Ms. Krstansky is very much in her element, and is working in the kind of intimate space where her familiar emotional transparency is at its best advantage.
Even so, it must be said that she lights up the room (even though she barely moves) with a performance that seems to explore and extend every nook and cranny of her character. Indeed, watching Krstansky, you feel that she's getting at something like the essence of emotional presence, and the variety of her vocal performance may become a legend. The New Rep seems to save its best acting for its small, basement space; after Anne Gottlieb's turn in Frankie and Johnny last December, I recall the critics buzzing in the lobby in precisely the same way. For those who are curious as to what it takes to get an award nomination in this town, I'd advise a trip to Three Viewings for the short course.