For a long time I have wanted a “He Said, She Said” version of reviews. That is why you have seen multiple reviews of certain shows. For the first time we managed to do it at the same time.
The question of power and who really holds it is at the helm of Alan Hruska’s new play Ring Twice for Miranda. Set in the future in a dystopian atmosphere, New York City Center Stage II, has been turned into for the most part the servants quarters of “Upstairs Downstairs” or “Downtown Abby” by scenic designer Jason Sherwood, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward and lighting designer Matthew Richards. Here Miranda (Katie Kleiger) and Elliott (George Merrick) await their rings trying to pass the time away. Their master is the man man named Sir (Graeme Malcolm), who has caused the dissension outside and is one of the few people anywhere remotely near by who has the essentials of life.
It is clear from the start that Elliot has a thing for Miranda, but is jealous of what Miranda does with Sir. He assumes it is of a sexual nature and it is driving him crazy. Miranda cares for Elliot but not in that way and it is clear to see why. Elliot is annoying, whiny, insecure and kinda blah looking. When the bell rings once for Elliot, he assumes it is because he does play a significant role, however it is so that Sir’s minion Gulliver (Daniel Pearce) can fire him. Elliot does not take it well, especially when Gulliver shows a interest in Miranda and goads him with that fact. When Miranda finds out she tries to use her influence with Sir to get him reinstated. She learns she is not as respected as she thought she was. Miranda and Elliot leave to find a better life. What they find is abandonment, bombed out buildings, fear and their worst nightmares realized. They meet Chester (William Connell) and Anouk (Talia Thiesfield), when their car runs out of gas. Just when they are about to lose hope, the life of the play, Felix (Ian Lassiter), shows up. He is a plumber who has been asked to bring them back to Sir. When he does Chester and Anouk have taken their places and do not want to loose a sure thing. Sir calls for Anouk, but she can not deliver what Sir wants, despite her best efforts. He calls for Miranda and though he only really wants her, she now sees he never cared or could care about her. She gives Sir what he want (No spoiler alerts), but nobody can give somebody feelings they do not have. Even Gulliver’s place is not secure and soon he is replaced. Miranda and Elliot find themselves stuck never being able to move forward. Ms. Kleiger is likable and spirited as Miranda and we totally understand why everyone wants a piece of her soul.
The show takes on how half of America feels right now in this political climate and should resonate, but there are many problems with this production. First; Mr. Pearce, Mr. Connell and Ms. Thiesfield, all seem in a different play. I blame part of this on the director Rick Lombardo. It’s almost as if this play does not know what it wants to be. Is this a farce bordering on theatre of the absurd and deep, like Ionesco or complexed and layered like Sartre? Right now it lives between those two worlds. I also don’t understand why Miranda i s willing to give up everything for Elliot. Where she is deep and full of life, he is a not even really a participant. Even in the outside world scene it seems Elliot will step up to the plate but no…..back to square one. Mr. Malcolm is fabulously cold, narcissistic and gives a wonderful dead pan delivery. Who steals the show is Mr. Lassiter with the least amount of lines and time on stage. From the moment he walks on, we want to know who he is. His lines makes us laugh at the understanding he has of the game. Mr. Lassiter’s face says it all with just a look.
Tyranny and the loss of personal freedom may only be saved and conquered by creativity and originality, but first we have to look and see who the real tyrants are because sometimes they are not in plain site.
New York City Center Stage II, 131 West 55TH ST. until April 16th.