Review by Nick Radu: Deconstruction

The Storm Theatre Company kicked off its 20th season with the world premiere of Jonathan Leaf’s play, Deconstruction.

Upon stepping into The Theatre at Grand Hall at St. Mary’s Parish you couldn’t help but notice Scenic Designer Shannon Kavanagh’s intricate set.  With a wall of books as the backdrop, and many more strewn along the steps, you knew a play about ideas and academics was about to take place.  The stage was literally set for literary critic and theorist, Paul de Man (Jed Peterson) and novelist, Mary McCarthy (Fleur Alys Dobbins) to take the stage. Perhaps the story got lost in the ideas.

While the playing space was set up well and interesting to look at, the echo and reverberation was a bit off-putting, especially when the actors were all the way upstag which took some getting used to.

Director Peter Dobbins’ wonderful staging took place on different levels, giving the actors options and the audience a much-needed variety in such an expository play.  The change between the Rhode Island set and the Greenwich Village set, however, could have been a little more pronounced and done in a timelier fashion.

Peterson’s portrayal of de Man was hard, calculated and guarded, while being friendly and charismatic when necessary.  He was captivating to watch, especially his last moments when no dialogue was needed.

Dobbins brought a youthful and whimsical attitude to Mary, while encompassing the aspect of “fighting the aging ingénue” her character possessed.  She did, however, seem to be trying a little too hard at times, playing at the truth rather than living in it, which robbed the audience of the endearing and comical moments that were few and far between.

Karoline Fischer, with her commanding stage presence, rounded out the cast playing Hannah Arendt.  Unfortunately, her voice did not match her stature, so dialogue was lost.

The play itself is very heady and wordy.  It is  difficult to connect to characters that cheat, lie and circumvent truths without really introducing endearing qualities and humanism.  Though, it could be argued that that is the purpose of a play titled: Deconstruction.  Deconstruction as a literary thought involves stories that intertwine with one another, are related, and yet are inherently opposite and contradictory to one another.  The play achieves this: stories that are intertwined, related and contradictory. Whether this concept in a play adds or detracts to the story is in the eye of each audience member.

Hannah states in the play that the one thing missing in Martin Heidegger’s theories is love.  There is no true connection in humanity; therefore, there are no real connections in the play?  Perhaps.

If anything, this play makes one think, or at least the very least, research these characters to understand their motivations, their connections and their end games.

Deconstruction runs through March 25th  

Grand Hall (at St. Mary’s Parish), 440 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

Visit www.stormtheatre.com for more info.

 

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