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Off Broadway

Invincible: The Exciting Secrets of the Neighbors

Invincible: The Exciting Secrets of the Neighbors
Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker

Alastair Whatley, Emily Bowker. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Truth be told, I’m not sure I’d want to invite any of these characters into my home for an evening of olives, nuts, and tea. But to be a fly on the wall inside of Emily and Oliver’s new home is a whole other story. The uncomfortable web that is weaved by director Stephen Darcy (with original direction by Christopher Harper) with Invincible, one of the many miraculous British imports that make up 59E59 Theatres’ BritsOffBroadway series, is just too good to pass up. The dynamics of class and intellectual/educational differences paired with the neurotic and stressed out liberals, all add up to a surprisingly strong cocktail too tasty to say no to. You don’t want to know all of the ingredients that writer Torben Betts has combine in his delicious new play, brought to NYC by Original Theatre Company and Ghost Light Theatre Productions, to give the piece such a unique flavor, but what you will want, is to savor each and every flavor as they hit your willing taste buds.

Elizabeth Boag, Alastair Whatley

Elizabeth Boag, Alastair Whatley. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

Emily Bowker is the young neurotic Emily, a passionate socialist who has moved from London to Northern England because of financial troubles, but also for socio-political ones. Oliver, her partner, and father to their unseen child, played impressively by Alister Whatley has lost his job, but together they are attempting to lay down new, less commercially-bound roots. They have invaded the neighborhood in a way, pretending to assimilate while refusing to let go of their liberal political convictions that separate them from the norm, at least in this neck of the woods.
Emily Bowker, Graeme Brookes, Elizabeth Boag, Alastair Whatley

Emily Bowker, Graeme Brookes, Elizabeth Boag, Alastair Whatley. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

So what’s a progressive couple to do when arriving in to a new neighborhood? Well, naturally they invite the neighbors over from some drinks one evening. Arguing up until the couple from next door make their dramatic entrance, the evening is ripe with a sense of hilarious dread. Dawn is the first to arrive, with a fanciful flair that is both absurd and abstract while also being very telling. Alan is next, but only once the soccer game has ended, with cans of beer and a non-stop bluster.  Graeme Brooks plays Alan, a beer-bellied postman, with a gruff, loud, puppy-dog charm, and Elizabeth Boag is his wife, Dawn. The two neighbors couldn’t be more different from the London liberals if they tried. The tea that Emily serves goes over as well as the forced conversation and pretend niceties, especially when it turns to the art of painting. But it is when government and the military are brought up and  debated, that the spiraling gets out of control and consumes all four. The emotional baggage that erupts onto that living room floor, meticulously designed by Victoria Spearing, with lighting design by Andy Purves and sound design by Max Pappenhein, is breathtakingly thrilling to witness and take in.  We all hold our breath with a nervousness and dread as so many secrets are acknowledged, created, and almost revealed.
Graeme Brookes, Elizabeth Boag

Graeme Brookes, Elizabeth Boag. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

There is a moment when we have to ask ourselves as participants of our social environment, at what point do we compromise our integrity for the sake of social propriety. Emily believes in truth at all costs, (even though I’m not so sure I believe in Emily), and we slowly learn why. The dynamics of loss and the pain of motherhood and parenthood in general, are all slowly exposed but so many loose ends are left dangling.  The performances are exacting and etched in detail and depth.  Whatley as the less rigid liberal genuinely presents an Oliver that is far more complicated then the passive kind soul he first gives us. And we aren’t sure what binds him to the annoying Emily, although the second act clarifies so many of the questions that we held throughout. Boag’s portrayal of Dawn, the desperate housewife, even with all the fantastical elements playfully tossed our way, had an emotionally rawness that was based in some very real pain. Such a surprise after the initial impression we get when she first shows up in that red cocktail dress. It turns out that she might be the most honest one of the bunch. First impressions are not to be trusted in Invincible, as you never know what’s really going on behind your back.

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Off Broadway

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 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

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