An intense piece of theatrical writing by playwright, Brad Birch (Black Mountain), drawing us quickly into the moon like circle and building on our curiosity inch by inch and minute by minute. We lean in as the two solid and emotionally attached/detached characters, Tom and Sophie circle around each other, looking for the weak spot in their armor. Sherman Theatre’s Tremor is the play, but also what is felt here as part of the #BritsOffBroadway series continues, as these two feel rooted and twisted together in a past tragedy that slowly reveals itself with each revolution of the stage. It’s tense and exhilarating, as directed neatly and with an increasing level of anxiety by David Mercatali, the same director who brought the wonderful Radiant Verminfrom Tobacco Factory Theatres/Soho Theatre to 59E59 Theaters last year. And starring two very capable and gifted actors, Lisa Diveney (Donmar Warehouse’s Moonlight) and Paul Rattray (Young Vic’s Three Sisters) who do a sexually charged dance around one another, scratching at the pain in their souls that is just itching under their skin.
These two damaged warriors were among only a handful of passengers to survive a bus crash four years earlier. The driver was blamed and punished. And these two were a couple back then, and judging by their strong and sensual chemistry on this day of reconnection, it was a powerful one, but one that was unable to stop their lives from falling apart in the aftermath of the event. We can’t help but see how Rattray’s Tom looks at her, and we can’t help but wonder why. He also can’t quite understand how this all came to be, and why she is standing in his newly created family’s home so many years later after no interaction. Why is he so nervous? And what does she want? These and other questions bounce around as they circle each other, warmly engaging while also jabbing and scratching at one another. At first Diveney is the one we can’t take our eyes off of, but that is where the slyness comes, tricking us into thinking this is about her more than him, making the shift all the more impressive from them both. But the tables turn quickly as the dinosaur watches on reminding us what is at stake for Tom, and this piece goes into the realm of accusations and revelations that one never saw coming.
It’s a beautifully urgent and electrifying tango, frighteningly revolving around fear, judgement, punishment, and panic attacks. Sam Jones (NT/Schaubühne Berlin/59E59’s Iphigenia in Splott) works his sound magic in this small space, bringing the thumping and pounding of the heart into our own, speeding it up until it is almost too much to handle. His creations pull us back in when our attentions start to lag, tapping us aggressively on the shoulder, asking us to sit up and re-engage. Production designer, Hayley Grindle (Sherman’s The Borrowers) and lighting designer, Ace McCarron (Sherman’s Dracula) simplify the space, trying to not pull us out of this dance, nor distract from this tense court of justice. They rather create an empty space for these two to come face to face once again and revisit that tragic day, pulling apart what happened afterwords and how it went so wrong. The shades and vantage points are extreme, solid, and very current in societal themes, causing us to leave the theatre disturbed, just like Sophia, horrified with the turn of events. Surprised but not. Invigorated but completely unsettled by the twisting of the knife. Metaphorically speaking.
My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond.
Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible!
As it seems you all love a good list, here's two.
FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order):
Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date.
Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008
Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far),
Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009
FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different):
Angels in American, both on Broadway and off
Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987
Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012
Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986
And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list.
These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading.
And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com