A (Ben Cole) is a successful screenwriter. (Don’t you hate it when an author gimmicks up a production by not naming his characters?!) Opening this ersatz existential piece, he addresses the audience, microphone in hand, as if we were a class. A, it seems, has not only written the film he’s about to begin, but will direct and has invested all his own money.
Clea Alsip and Tony Naumovski; Tony Naumovski and Maren Bush
Once again, A will star his wife, B (Clea Alsip) in the production, this time opposite C (Tony Naumovski), an old friend now down on his luck. When C arrives from Los Angeles, A immediately starts to bait him. An undercurrent of hostility is apparent. C moves in with A & B for the duration.
Despite the fact he declares he’s never loved anyone, C may be in love with his friend’s wife, B. B & C may or may not embark on an affair. As we observe love scenes being shot (excellent direction) and the playwright’s treatment of stylized reality in succession, it’s impossible to tell what’s real unless or until a scene is “cut.”
A grows angrier and more jealous, yet it seems clear he set this up. He fires his male film editor replacing him with D (Maren Bush), a woman C recently abandoned. D loves C but shortly senses something is going on in the house. Later in the tale, she too addresses us like a film class. Life runs like film, film is managed like life. Got all that?
Maren Bush and Ben Cole
Some speeches, like a long confession of sins C makes on his knees, are a litany of generalizations. The relatively simple premise plays out in front of multiple screens on which fragments of performers are projected, further complicating perceptions. And the point?
Stefan Dzeparoski does a helluva job directing untethered writing. All four actors are top notch, embedding themselves in what portion of authenticity characters are allowed. Tension is maintained as players relate to one another with compelling focus. Sexual heat is palpable. Dzeparoski manages to make a stage empty but for chairs (and those annoying screens) almost visually interesting.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Tony Naumovski, Ben Cole, Clea Alsip
Birdland Theatre presents
Wide Awake Hearts by Brendan Gall
With Tony Naumovski, Ben Cole, Clea Alsip, Maren Bush
Directed by Stefan Dzeparoski
59 East 59th Street
Through February 7, 2016