Friday, December 12, 2008

Out Cry


By Tennessee Williams. Dir. Thom Sesma. National Asian American Theatre Company at the Abingdon Theatre. (CLOSED)

There was a remarkable level of consensus about this revival of Tennessee Williams' late play, about a pair of actor-siblings abandoned by their company and their audience on tour, who nevertheless enact a play, also about an unhinged brother and sister. Though a few critics highlighted some of Williams' language and partly lauded the performance of Mia Katigbak, Aaron Riccio of That Sounds Cool probably best summed up the critical reaction by noting that while the fictional "audience" has left the characters onstage, the real surprise is that the actual audience doesn't walk out on this production.

Village Voice B-
(James Hannahan) Out Cry has the disquieting atmosphere of a great artist imprisoned with an invalid muse, publicly mutilating himself. That's actually the good news. NAATCO's re-animation of this haunting coda evokes the proper tawdriness, especially Czerton Lim's cluttered set, but the play needs virtuoso actors to feign mediocrity. Mia Katigbak comes close; Eduardo Machado doesn't feign.

CurtainUp C
(Gregory A. Wilson) Experimental and edgy...It doesn't really work, but it's unclear who's really to blame...Though, taken as a whole, the acting isn't up to the play's challenge, this too is an uncertain verdict, because director Thom Sesma content to let the text wander on without real distinctiveness or message.

The New York Times C-
(Wilborn Hampton) Under Thom Sesma’s direction, this production is curiously slow-paced and flat. Mia Katigbak and Eduardo Machado present an odd couple as the siblings trapped by a hazy past and fearful of an uncertain future, afraid to leave the theater even to go to the market. Ms. Katigbak has moments of the imperious diva, but at times she seems lost in the obscurity of Williams’s text. Mr. Machado embodies the playwright more than the actor in Felice, animated in some scenes but strangely anemic in others.

Time Out NY C-
(Diane Snyder) In this bleak and biting late work—which lasted just two weeks on Broadway in 1973—Williams goes existential in an attempt to deconstruct the drama. Even if the result is more an intriguing metatheatrical addendum to a great body of work than a fully realized play, the heft of this National Asian American Theatre Company production is hampered by Thom Sesma’s wobbly production. C-
(Michael Criscuolo) The play contains plenty of Williams's trademark savage intensity and beautiful, poetic strangeness, and is a potent commentary on the easily blurred lines between fiction and reality. Unfortunately, all of those qualities get underserved in the National Asian American Theatre Company's current pedestrian revival of the play. Marred by unsure direction and erratic acting, NAATCO's Out Cry limps and dodders where it should soar, and hums politely where it should electrify...It's as if the entire situation is just a minor inconvenience for both characters, instead of a matter of life or death.

That Sounds Cool D+
(Aaron Riccio) There are moments in Out Cry that are so poetic that they conjure up dreams of Summer and Smoke. But Felice, upon seeing his sister regress to a childish fascination with soap-bubbles, points out that “they break,” and Machado, in an inappropriately Kowalski moment, swats the bubbles down, channeling an anger that he doesn’t actually feel. In other words, even well-scripted moments on the page, of which there are not many, end up dying by the time they float onto the stage.

Village Voice B- 9; CurtainUp C 7; The New York Times C- 6; Time Out NY C- 6; C- 6; That Sounds Cool D+ 5; TOTAL: 6.5 (C/C-)

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