In PR materials for Tiny Dynamite, Lyn Gardner of The Guardian is quoted as having called Abi Morgan a playwright with a gift for ambiguity and innovation. I would agree. As we left the theater, I turned to my companion asking whether she thought the characters had been remembering, reliving or inadvertently recreating incidents which irrevocably changed two of their lives. The response? “I was hoping you’d explain it to me.” I can’t.
Lucien, “the shy one” (Christian Conn) and Anthony (Blake DeLong) “the runt” have been friends since childhood. The two were together when, at six years old, Anthony was hit by lightning, which may or may not have exacerbated his diminished mental capacity. Later, they were both present when someone they both loved committed suicide. Lucien grew up to work in Risk Assessment. “Freak accident” articles at the back of a newspaper are read aloud, peppering the story with examples of life’s odd and arbitrary damage. Anthony literally lives on the streets, which he insists is a choice. Mostly articulate and lucid, the world he inhabits is not ours.
Several times a year, Lucien collects his friend, cleans him up, and spirits Anthony out of the city for a peaceful vacation during which, hopefully, reality has a better hold. The young men now have a push/pull relationship. Madeleine (Olivia Horton), a free spirited drifter working four jobs near their rented lake house, makes up the third side of a triangle or what might be called a rondo: repetitions of a couplet separated by longer sections of poetry.
While the three characters and their relationships are credibly, if sketchily drawn, it’s never clear what, in fact, is happening. Are we watching a vacation in real time during which memories arise and affect? Are we watching the playing out of the earlier tragedy? Are we watching its dynamics repeat themselves threatening a new situation? The playwright’s intention remains a concept involving dark random fates. Because of this, sympathies dissipate almost as quickly as they arise.
All three actors are focused, able, and deserve something more. Christian Conn (Lucien) creates a solid, repressed character who seems always to be in pain and somewhat at a loss. His role is the least expressive, but the actor never allows Lucien to disappear. Blake DeLong (Anthony) is skillful at unsettling the audience. Mood swings are never telegraphed, insights feel unexpected. His portrayal is cohesive while Anthony remains an enigma. Olivia Horton (Madeleine) acts with a naturalism that makes Madeleine feel comfortable and familiar. She listens well. Ideas seem to arise on the spot.
Director Matt Torney uses the stage well. I found myself longing for less generic character portrayals, however. Maruti Evan’s Set and Lighting Design succeeded in being as conceptual as the play.
Photos by Carol Rosegg, from top:
Olivia Horton, Christian Conn, and Blake DeLong
Blake DeLong and Christian Conn
Origin Theater Company presents
Tiny Dynamite by Abi Morgan
Directed by Matt Torney
With Christian Conn, Blake DeLong, Olivia Horton
59 East 59th Street
Through July 1, 2012