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In A Word – Cherry Lane Theater, New York

Writer: Lauren Yee

Director: Tyne Rafaeli

Reviewer: Robert Price

The script takes off at a breakneck speed in Lauren Yee’s new play, and Tyne Rafaeli’s direction keeps the dialogue flowing with technical precision. Laura Ramadei plays Fiona, a woman who has lost her son. Two years after his disappearance she still finds it hard to move on, while her husband Guy, played by Jose Joaquin Perez, seems to be at his wit’s end. Memories flood the stage, flipping from past to present like the flick of a switch. Oona Curly’s lighting and set design create instantaneous transitions that move at the speed of thought. We discover that her child requires special attention at school, and that Fiona volunteers to keep him in her class. We see him shrink from her touch, throw a tantrum and obsess over words and phrases. His misunderstanding of a leave of absence creates a leaf, and finally a tree of absence. The world of the play grows to include several surreal elements with the help of Stowe Nelson’s expert sound design. 

Justin Mark plays the troubled child with athletic precision. Mark also assumes the role of any character that isn’t Fiona or Guy. He becomes a stranger at the grocery store, a detective, Fiona’s boss and Guy’s drinking buddy. What might otherwise seem a kooky premise is an effective dramatic tool in Mark’s capable hands. Unsettling phrases pop up in conversation with Fiona and the echoes of her words seem to haunt her in her son’s voice. Lesser America has produced a show that evolves with every moment, and moves like music.  Perez and Ramadei keep us guessing at their true intentions, living distracted lives searching for each other. Rafaeli leaves us with a final image that we won’t soon forget.

Runs until 8 July 2017

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The American team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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