Monday, December 11, 2006

388: Review of Brilliant Traces

Brilliant Traces, by Cindy Lou Johnson. An oil worker's self-enforced isolation in a house in the Middle of Nowhere, Alaska, is disrupted by the arrival of an unbalanced woman in a bridal gown. Having had his peaceful limbo disrupted, Henry Harry refuses to allow Rosannah Deluce to leave until she finds reconcilation within herself. This latest production by the actor/director Frank Dattolo surprisingly pleases: the ethereal advertisements for the show made it seem like a bizarre trip (the insane bride, a la Lucia di Lammermoor, didn't help), but it's actually a tour-de-force of human psychology.

This play is performed in both English and ASL by New York Deaf Theater, and both translations are well-fashioned. Anne Tomasetti and Aaron Kubey provide the necessary character for this character-driven play-and then some! I was absolutely delighted by Tomasetti, who has the expressive range of Audrey Tautou and all of the charm; Kubey's performance resembles that of a more psychologically sophisticated version of Stanley from Streetcar, as his character convincingly moves from timid to terrifying. Indeed, the connection between the two actors strongly called A Streetcar Named Desire to mind, as their give-and-take of sanity and insanity goes from madness to lust to the kindness of strangers-a Streetcar where the prison of marriage is replaced by that of a blizzard, and this 'Blanche' arrives drunk-but quickly runs out of alcohol.

This is one of those well-directed productions which, adapted for ASL, finds clever ways to include voice interpretation which add, not detract, from the production. Two grey-costumed interpreters fade into the desolate, minimalist stage, seeming to represent the former lives of the characters (Kathy Walley, who voices for Tomasetti, even wears a slightly ruffled dress, hinting at the wedding dress Tomasetti takes off earlier in the stage.) Frank Todaro, for example, looks at the recumbent Tomasetti early in the production in a way which echoes the later looks of Kubey. That the two voice actors are speaking different language from the actors only enhances the weird ghostly connections. It emphasizes the bond between the two lost ones, as they dance verbally and physically on stage. Ordonez' costuming is also well-chosen; Tomasetti's dress is replaced by a plaid-and-jeans uniform matching Kubey's, hinting again at the prison-like nature of their exile.

Traces is a long piece-as one audience member said, it's weird (especially in this age of meaningless reality tv!) to see two people just relating for an hour and a half. The ending, however, more than satisfies, though free of resolution; the lights go off with madness in Rosannah's face. Tomasetti and Kubey pull off what must be an exhausting performance, keeping the audience interested and involved in a way which previous productions seem to have had trouble doing-this reviewer, despite a winter cold and a corneal abrasion, nonetheless squinted to catch every word. You could feel it in the audience when Henry kissed Rosannah. Their passion quite literally rattled the set - and the audience, which sat talking about what they'd seen a solid ten minutes after the lights went up. It's no wonder this production is sold out.

Brilliant Traces. Performed at the Gene Frankel Theater. 24 Bond Street New York, NY; NY Deaf Theatre.

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