World Premiere by Susan Eve Haar
Of all our contemporary urban myths none is more absurd than the fiction of the “classless society,” and Morris Panych’s latest comedy penetrates ruthlessly to the shock and horror of the residue of hardened pesto soiling its porcelain heart.
Haplessly determined to have his own miserable authority vindicated, chief dishwasher Dressler presides over the steam-choked basement of an up-scale restaurant, a place of seamless existential drudgery so utterly remote from the light of day that its wage-slaves have no contact with anyone outside. Spouting an indiscriminate cornucopia of working-class ethic, an interminable babble of pride of craft, Marxist rhetoric and the virtues of individual entrepreneurship as celebrated by Ayn Rand, Dressler tyrannizes his co-workers relentlessly.
Unfortunately, both the “old hand” Moss and the “new guy” Emmett fail utterly to see things his way as they stubbornly and inexplicably pursue both their rejection of and aspiration to join “the folks upstairs.”
A woman carries her heart, broken into nineteen pieces, in a small paper bag. A man shrinks to half his former size, after losing hope in love. A couple keep the love they have given each other in large red bags, or compress the mass into the size of a diamond. These playful and surreal experiences are commonplace in the world of John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, where on one deeply cold and magical Midwinter Night, the citizens of Almost — not organized enough for a town, too populated for a wilderness — experience the life-altering power of the human heart. Relationships end, begin, or change beyond recognition, as strangers become friends, friends become lovers, and lovers turn into strangers. Propelled by the mystical energy of the aurora borealis and populated with characters who are humorous, plain-spoken, thoughtful, and sincere, Almost, Maine is a series of loosely connected tales about love, each with a compelling couple at its center, each with its own touch of sorcery.
Una, a 27-year-old woman, comes to visit Ray, a 55-year-old man, at his office. They are clearly not comfortable in other’s company, and we soon find out why: 15 years before, when Una was only twelve, Ray seduced Una over the course of three months and finally took her away to a hotel for the weekend. Ray spent several years in prison for statutory rape, and Una was ostracized from her community after the incident. Now, she has found him by accident, and the play delves into their complex feelings for each other. Though clearly, and definitionally, sexual abuse has occurred, the play that ensues is also part of a love story — a horrible love story, but a love story all the same. Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, Blackbird is a deeply complex portrayal of two people whose ruined lives are inextricably intertwined.