Woolly Mammoth's Stunning

The set, designed by Daniel Conway, is very tall. And very white. “Stunning,” as Lily, the main character, would put it. It is in this ivory tower that Lily (Laura Heisler), a 16-year old Syrian Jew, is trapped with her middle-aged husband, Ike (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend). Their comfortable lives are interrupted when they hire African-American Blanche as their maid. Lily’s eyes are opened to the world beyond her closeted upbringing, and the results make for the conflicts of the play. As Lily dives more and more into self-examination, several of the white walls are turned to reveal mirrors.

David Adjmi’s script, and the actors’ performances, are most successful in the first half, which comes off as a pointed satire on this insular society, with its own expectations, customs, and language (the program even includes a short Syrian-American glossary). At this point in the play, the dialogue is modern, overlapping and crisp. The actors fire their lines off, and you really get a sense of the community in which they exist and the way they relate to each other.

In the supporting cast, there is some fine work by Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey as Shelley, Lily’s older sister. She is the most successful at playing the extremes of her character, and yet still coming off as a believable person. When Blanche (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) first enters, she is a welcome addition to the play. Bernstine brings a quiet, understated quality, which serves as a balance to the other characters.

The play loses its drive in the second act. Several of the plot points seem forced, and Heisler, Goodfriend, and Bernstine have trouble navigating the highs and lows of their characters, some of which seem a little arbitrary. Furthermore, some of the places Adjmi takes his characters only serves to undermine the previous effects they have had on each other, and makes it hard to care about them.

3 stars
Through April 6th


Anonymous said…
Thanks for your post. I saw a reading of this play and thought it was great and very moving. Not sure what this production is like, but I'm sure the difficulties will be ironed out in the second half. Considering its a 3 act play, a world premiere and the second preview we can afford to give the creators some time to work out the kinks in production.
Thanks for reading and jumping in with your thoughts. It was the second preview. I do try to mention when I've seen a preview as aspects often change before opening, but I forgot to do so that time.
I am a firm believer in theatre as a living art, so I certainly hope the play is not yet set in stone. I recently saw Rock n Roll, which I liked, but felt needed more work. I was much relieved to hear an interview with Tom Stoppard where he said that before the next professional production he would be making some script changes.
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