Friday, October 10, 2008



By Sarah Kane. Dir. Sarah Benson. Soho Rep. (CLOSED)

Sarah Kane's landmark 1996 shocker makes its long-overdue NY premiere, and critics were stunned--mostly with admiration--by the graphic play and Soho Rep's fearless production.

New York Times A
(Ben Brantley) As impeccably staged by Sarah Benson and acted by a three-member ensemble with the bravery of hang gliders in a storm, Ms. Kane's fierce study in the human instinct for inhumanity still registers off the Richter scale...There is deep satisfaction to be derived from this 90-minute work, which contracts and expands time beyond easy measuring. It's the pleasure that comes from being compelled to follow an authentic and original voice into theatrical territory you have never visited before.

NY Times A
(Charles Isherwood) A superlative production, directed by Sarah Benson, that does full justice to the integrity of Ms. Kane's singular vision...Descriptions give little sense of the play's impact in the theater, just as reading the script would provide only a sketchy impression of its potential to latch onto the viscera and squeeze tightly...Each moment of the play feels like a moment in real time, depicting actual experience, even when the play dissolves from naturalism into something closer to expressionism.

Variety A
(Marilyn Stasio) Would that we still had the innocence to be shocked by the atrocities depicted in helmer Sarah Benson's uncompromising revival for Soho Rep. More than a dozen years after the play's initial production and almost a decade since the 28-year-old playwright's suicide, her metaphorical vision has become literal reality.

Time Out NY A
(David Cote) Here is a vision of contemporary Western horror delivered with full force and total commitment, in a blazingly lucid production...Benson's fearless actors all give intensely raw yet technically adept performances.

New York A
(Dan Kois) Less a drama than a cleverly constructed series of escalating assaults on its characters and audience, Blasted has lost none of its power, thanks not only to the punch of Kane’s writing but to Sarah Benson’s production—especially her technical team, whose mid-show transformation of the hotel room into a hellish netherworld is as shocking and revelatory as all the dead babies Blasted can throw in your face.

Theater News Online A
(Andy Buck) [Sarah] Benson assembles a fine ensemble of performers and designers to bring this frightening story to life. It's difficult to imagine many established actors willing to go the lengths that Reed Birney does in his role of Ian, a physically and morally decrepit journalist. Marin Ireland does her usual remarkarble work as a simple young woman who, against all odds, cares for Ian. And Louis Cancelmi is simply mesmerizing as a wild-eyed soldier intruding on Ian's world.

Village Voice A
(Marc Robinson) Among the many virtues of director Sarah Benson's Soho Rep production is its dissent from the conventional wisdom about Kane: Far from being "in yer face" (that awful phrase, coined by the play's first British critics), this Blasted is indifferent to us...Kane's rational structure becomes increasingly prominent as Blasted seems, deceptively, to devolve into pure instinct.

MetroMix A
(Aaron Leichter) Blasted is a European's reaction to the return of conflict after 50 years of cold warfare. But it's more than a visceral response to a specific historical moment, a formal experiment in subverting expectations, or even a juvenile attempt to outrage audiences. Kane sees a link between domestic violence with military brutality. After the terrorist attacks on New York and the moral morass in Iraq, Americans are recognizing the depths of human depravity in ourselves, as well as others.

New Yorker A
The forceful and always daring SoHo Rep mounts the long-awaited New York première of the late Sarah Kane’s groundbreaking and excruciating drama, in which the attempts of an aging journalist (Reed Birney) to seduce a dim-witted young girl (Marin Ireland) quickly spiral into an increasingly nightmarish series of events. The director, Sarah Benson, has assembled a topnotch team of designers and a cast of equally brilliant actors; the results are simultaneously devastating and sublime.

New York Post A-
(Frank Scheck) Under Benson's superb direction, the actors give such fiercely committed and brave performances that one wonders how it's possible for them to go on night after night - and whether they're prone to the nightmares one might have after watching them in this brilliantly hellish production.

Superfluities A-
(George Hunka) Director and actors are...unsparing in the depiction of Kane's own cruel world: none of the myriad violent bodily transgressions of the play are minimised, and the determined physicality of the achievement is shudderingly powerful. A production this extraordinary, however, unearths weaknesses as well as strengths in Kane's text, weaknesses that may not be evident on a mere reading of the play.

Curtain Up A-
(Jenny Sandman) Sarah Kane's Blasted is not an easy play to watch. Nor is it a play to see on an empty stomach. But it's definitely worth the effort, though you're likely to be haunted by it for some time...Though all this might give the impression that the violence in Blasted is gratuitous, it isn't. The fact that it's hard to watch is exactly the point--violence and rape should be hard to watch. The play points out not only our own desensitivity to violence but the parallels between sexual assault and the atrocities of war.

New Jersey Star-LedgerB+
(Michael Sommers) An extremely disturbing play from England, Blasted jolts viewers with shock treatment-style theatrics meant to re-sensitize their dulled awareness of the world's horrors. Toward this goal, scenes of sexual abuse, rape, mutilation, death and cannibalism are rendered with graphic realism...For all of its serious intentions, it's a difficult show to stomach.

(Michael Kuchwara) Unnerving in the extreme, which makes the evening's fleeting moments of human connection all the more potent...The theatricality is undeniable, thanks to Sarah Benson's astute, tension-savvy direction, but the gruesome doings are hard to watch.

Theatermania B+
(Andy Propst) Soho Rep's first-rate production, helmed by artistic director Sarah Benson, confirms the piece's reputation as an audacious work seemingly designed for those theatergoers able to withstand an assault on the senses and emotions...On one level, as the atrocities mount, the action proves riveting. At the same time, though, there comes a moment when the sheer profusion of ghastly behavior becomes almost ludicrous, as if to eschew stunned contemplation. Still, Benson's staging is taut and rhythmically beautiful.

(Matt Windman) Blasted remains a raw, horrific work that is not meant for anyone with a weak stomach. But if you're up for the challenge, it's a gripping theatrical experience portraying the shock and awe of the warzone.

Newsday B
(Linda Winer) I don't remember leaving a theater feeling as beaten up as I was by director Sarah Benson's excruciatingly realistic production. There's no space for noble abstractions about battlefields here, no marches for glory...How awful it must have been for [Kane] to live in such a mind. But how tragic for political theater to have lost such a voice.

Backstage B-
(Gwen Orel) What makes Blasted worth seeing is its haunting, lovely, and equally brutal first third...Here Kane makes sharp observations about misogyny, power, brutality, and racism with deadly accuracy. Her imagination and flair for language shine...Director Sarah Benson, Soho Rep's artistic director, has an eye for striking pictures and gets clear and persuasive performances from her cast. Unfortunately, she lingers too long on each moment, highlighting—like the gore-ridden stage—the messiness of the play itself.

Bloomberg News D+
(John Simon) To alleviate the Grand Guignol quality...there would be need for some psychological insight or more distinctive dialogue, which we do not get. We do get some fancy visual effects...The cast...does heroically under Sarah Benson's direction. You may be amazed at what an actor is willing to expose himself to for the sake of employment or, if sufficiently gullible, art. I myself question Kane's artistry; I believe there are limits to what needs to be shown, and where shock prevails, art has scant chance.

NY Times A 13; NY Times A 13; Variety A 13; New York A 13; Theater News Online A 13; Time Out NY A 13; Village Voice A 13; Metromix A 13; New Yorker A 13; New York Post A- 12; Superfluities A- 12; Curtain Up A- 12; New Jersey Star-Ledger B+ 12; AP B+ 11; Theatermania B+ 11; AMNY B+ 11; Newsday B 10; Backstage B- 9; Bloomberg D+ 5; TOTAL: 222 / 19 = 11.68 (A-)

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