by Sylvia Blush ~
The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th happened almost nine years ago, nearly three thousand miles away. The event that buckled the Big Apple and much of the nation continues to inspire new works in the arts. In its twenty ninth season of celebrated productions, Theatre of NOTE, has introduced their latest World Premiere, Shake.
Taking place in Manhattan post 9/11, Shake moves backward in time from August of 2002 through September of 2001. Following the lives of Peggy (Alina Phelan), Bill (Joe Egender), and Matthew (Troy Blendell), a husband in denial about losing his wife due to the attacks, the two-act story unfolds through a succession of lies, angst, and the struggle to survive in an uncertain world. The characters grapple with their relationships and their mere existence as they are torn between purpose and reality.
The play is never melodramatic nor does it try to use the events of September 11th to vie for pathos. Lives have been changed, and the affects are apparent, but playwright Joshua Fardon concentrates on peeling back the layers meticulously to uncover truths. Each scene divulges new pieces of information and maintains spontaneity with a hint of mystery as the months are recalled.
What troubled me about the piece was the mismatched intensity and clarity between acts. Shake started off strong with all of the important elements of great theatre working as one unit. But something was lost after intermission. As we moved toward the source of what triggered these lives to spiral, the connection is lost from page to stage. The resolution in act two did not fulfill the anticipation built up in the first. Mr. Fardon’s message or point to the play is undefined. Yet, its redeeming quality is his ability to capture the spirit of the human condition.
Ms. Phelan and Mr. Egender had solid performances throughout. Their chemistry was visceral and quite mesmerizing. Also, Michelle Gardner, who plays Julia not so humbly giving Peggy a lesson on playing Antigone, captures the true essence of many Chekhovian acting coaches; a touch to the head to demonstrate frustration went a long way. Ranging from lunatic advisor to melodramatic queen, she is believable and grounded. Truly a fantastic scene all together.
Director Kiff Scholl beautifully pushes the action forward through crisp pacing and delicate staging; patiently allowing the tension filled moments to stretch to their capacity. A split scene in which four actors share part of the same room is hauntingly romantic, a slim reminder of how all of these lives are intertwined.
Edgar A. Fisman’s sound design, along with the titles projected onto the set during scene changes, served as a reminder of the reversing timeline. The abrupt ending of songs that began specific scenes almost forced you to shake off what you witnessed so that you can take in what led up to that given month.
Shake runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm through September 5, 2010.
Ticket prices are $22.00 general admission and $18.00 for seniors/students.
Theatre of NOTE is located at 1517 N. Cahuenga (just north of Sunset), Hollywood, CA 90028. Parking is limited to street metered parking or an adjacent parking lot which can run $6.00 flat rate.
Reservations online at www.theatreofnote.com or by phone (subject to availability) at 323.856.8611