Day: January 22nd, 2007

A Beautiful View

Monday, January 22nd, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats

Attended the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, a showcase for cutting-edge theater.  Now in its third year, the ten-day festival stages experimental works from across the country and around the world in the Public’s own spaces, and at their partner theaters downtown and in DUMBO.

I stopped in at the box office during lunchtime to pick up tickets for a couple of the offerings this week.  Despite a fair amount of coverage in the usual media outlets, seats were still available for that night’s show, and sure enough, when I returned later that night to the main floor Newman Theater, I had my pick of general admission seats.  I settled in, second row center, to enjoy A Beautiful View.

Public Theater Bar 

The thing about experimental theater is that it carries with it the potential for both the sublime and the unwatchable.  Tonight’s piece was written and directed by Daniel MacIvor, a Canadian actor, playwright, film director, and theater director (of the Toronto company Da Da Kamera) — a provenance which seemed to bode well for the quality of the production.  But really, there was no way to be assured of it in advance.

The darkened stage stood barren of all accoutrements except for a tent and a couple of folding chairs.  A boombox emitted loud cricket sounds as two unidentified, unremarkably dressed, 40-ish women entered the stage separately and just… sat there.  For what felt like an eternity, they sat facing each other, immobile, staring, not staring.  At last, one spoke.  Their clipped exchange was heavy with pauses and carried the tense undertones of estranged lovers.  Which we couldn’t entirely be sure they were.  My heart sank just a little as I braced myself for a lo-o-o-ong night.

A Beautiful View Stage 

But then, their story began to unspool in a series of flashbacks, interspersed with quick asides to the audience. Each brief episode advanced the complicated relationship between these two women, from their initial, fib-filled, random meeting at a sporting goods store in their 20’s, to their subsequent less random meetings over the next couple of decades, which — like so much of human interaction — were littered with romantic entanglements, miscommunications and missed opportunities. The play’s structure easily moved the protagonists back and forth through important moments in their on-and-off friendship, muddled by a sexual tension that each, in her own ways, was ill-equipped to understand. One of the most compelling aspects of A Beautiful View  was the way it played with relationship labels and the women’s fixed notions of identity, exploring the inadequacy of easy categorizations; at one point, each of the ostensibly heterosexual women (brilliantly captured by actors Caroline Gillis and Tracy Wright) observed to herself of the other, “Oh…she’s a lesbian.”

Filled with sly humor, quick-witted dialogue and occasional moments of heartbreak, A Beautiful View  was a wonderful bit of theater that dared to take on the weighty issues of love and relationships, and the emotional dynamics between two people forced to face their greatest fears and insecurities.

Afterwards, a post-show dinner of steamed pierogis at Veselka for their touted “Ukrainian soul food in the heart of the East Village.”  The sign posted outside advised diners that the 24-hour restaurant would be closing that night at 11PM for its monthly cleaning.

Maybe it’s because I have sanitation standards on the brain, but I interpreted the announcement to mean that just then, the restaurant was dirtier than it would be for the next few weeks.  Does that make me a glass-half-empty kind of person?



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