Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Geometry of Fire


By Stephen Belber; directed by Lucie Tiberghien. (CLOSED).

It's Stephen Belber's second Off-Broadway play of the season, and Rattlestick's second play in a row where disagreements about the War in Iraq figure prominently in the plot. So how did it fare? Critics in general were impressed with Lucie Tiberghien's direction, and found the play at times involving but too schematically plotted. None of the reviewers cared for the play's ending, which seemed overly contrived and overbearingly melodramatic.

Variety A-
(Marilyn Stasio) The play has... substance and purpose -- and plenty of guts. Tough subject matter is presented with few compromises in Lucie Tiberghien's smartly cast and unaffected production for Rattlestick, which should add to its appeal to serious, discerning auds..., this gripping drama has no trouble rising above its flaws.

Backstage B+
(Karl Levett)
Under the brisk — you might even call it urgent — direction of Lucie Tiberghien, the intensity of the writing is matched by the performances of a superior cast.

CurtainUp B
(Elyse Sommer) DeMunn and Mudge handle their various role with aplomb. O'Donnell portrays the guilt-haunted, emotionally immobilized Mel with sensitive understatement. The tall, dark and handsome Keshawarz is believable and dynamic as an Arab-American, who comes across as more American than Arab. His Arab roots evident only briefly as part of the love felt for his father, rather than the terrorist tendencies with which we've labelled all these hyphenated Americans since 9/11.

The New York Times B-
(Charles Isherwood) Mr. Belber, the author of several plays seen in New York in recent years, including Match, McReele and A Small, Melodramatic Story, writes fluid, naturalistic dialogue and shapes his characters with care. Geometry of Fire is hindered by the schematic, um, geometry of its plotting, but Mr. Belber’s primary theme — that we all have a responsibility to the world around us, even if it is not easily discerned — is smartly woven into the texture of the play. (Only occasionally does a character articulate it too bluntly.)

Show Showdown C+
(Patrick Lee) More pedantic than enlightening. It's also far too tidy and predictable: the subplot, in which the Saudi-American comes to believe that his dying father's blood cancer was caused by U.S. chemical testing in his Virginia backyard, is an instantly transparent device to bring him into inevitable angry opposition to the ex-soldier. Belber's dialogue is natural and believable, but the play lacks a suitable amount of escalating tension, which dulls the power of the characters' confrontation.

(Frank Scheck) While the play clearly reflects Belber's passionate feelings about the damage, both emotional and physical, inflicted by war, it traffics too often in clich├ęs. Such scenes as Mel's imaginary conversation with his dead victim or his whipping out a gun during a tense barroom encounter feel all too familiar.

TheaterMania C-
(Adam R. Perlman) Sadly, Keshawarz and O'Donnell don't seem quite on target -- with the latter failing to land any of the role's humor; but it's hard to see how better performances would affect the bottom line. Conversely, Mudge and DeMunn are characteristically stellar. In the end, it doesn't matter -- since even they can't make Geometry add up to a rewarding theatrical experience.

Time Out NY C-
(Rob Weinert-Kendt) Stephen Belber, reaching beyond the dude-drama milieu of Tape and Fault Lines, stirs some intriguing crosscurrents of tension...and director Lucie Tiberghien’s hardworking cast occasionally brings the ingredients to an unsettling boil. But the play could use some of that sniper’s precision: Dialogue sags more than it snaps, and the promised frisson fizzles.

New Yorker C-
The playwright Stephen Belber has a lot of ideas about war, idealism, the ways we are all connected, and the difficulty of changing one’s habitual behavior, but, in this case, they remain muddy concepts, unrealized by the director, Lucie Tiberghien, and the talented actors on the stage.

Variety A- 12; Backstage B+ 11; CurtainUp B 10; NYTimes B- 9; Show Showdown C+ 8; NYPOST C 7; TM C- 6; Time Out NY C- 6; New Yorker C- 6; TOTAL = 75 / 9 = 8.33 (B-)

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