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The Years

Autor: Cindy Lou Johnson

Infos zum Theaterstück:
Datum der Aufführung: 1992-1993
Stadt: New York City
Theater: Manhattan Theater Club,
             City Center Stage I
Infos zu diesem Bericht:
Quelle: Website der New York Times
Autorin: Mel Gussow
Veröffentlicht: 25.01.1993
 



Kritik von Mel Gussow zum Stück:
In "The by Cindy Lou Johnson, sudden unforeseeable events drastically alter lives. A young woman is robbed on a lonely ridge near her home. The mugging, which takes place on the woman's wedding day, leaves her in a state of disorientation. Her confusion lasts almost to the end of the play, a convoluted tale about siblings and cousins who live their lives without a sense of direction or destination.

Does change come through choice or chance? Ms. Johnson's answer is as elusive as her narrative. One point she is evidently trying to make is that people are trapped not only by their past mistakes and but also by the actions of their parents. For these characters, life can be as uncontrollable as a runaway roller coaster. As the play (at the Manhattan Theater Club) veers from eccentric comedy to pathos, the theatrical role model it evokes is Beth Henley's "Crimes of the Heart." But where Ms. Henley made us care deeply about her people, those in Ms. Johnson's family play quickly wear out their welcome.

Each is compartmentalized, as were the two characters in the snowbound Alaskan cabin in Ms. Johnson's previous play "Brilliant Traces." Even while preparing for a wedding, the relatives in "The Years" remain divided and lost in individual reveries. It is time for a wake-up call.

The playwright seems to be urging her people to have staying power. That could be regarded as advice to theatergoers, who may become restless at the refusal of these characters to act in their own behalf or to listen to others. For example, the woman who is mugged (Nancy Hower) repeatedly courts disaster; she even returns to that ridge.

The first act of the play is resistible, as the focus temporarily settles on the bride's cousin (Marcia Gay Harden), a busybody who bosses everyone, especially her younger brother (Frank Whaley). She is an exaggerated version of Natasha, the meddling sister-in-law in "The Three Sisters," and nothing the actress does alleviates the abrasiveness. Missing any sense of self-mockery, she sets the play off on a discordant note, and 13 years later she remains the same.

But in the interval, the play has changed for the better. In the second act, Ms. Johnson's elliptical plotting and anarchic style begin to coalesce into a group portrait of a family that refuses to accept the label dysfunctional. Connections are finally made, not only between siblings and cousins, but also, less believably, between attacker and victim.

The catalyst in this mixed-up menage is the brother, whose tortoiselike behavior turns out to be a coverup for a soul in anguish. He evolves into a photographer with a mystical sensibility and an eye that is painfully acute to the dangers of life. But earlier in the story the brother is blurred. It is one thing for his sister to be oblivious to his talent, quite another for the audience to be so unprepared for his emergence as artist and message bearer. It is as if the author had also overlooked him, until she decided to move him to center stage.

Arbitrarily setting her ground rules, Ms. Johnson writes with a long arm of coincidence. But even on her idiosyncratic terms, she asks for too great a suspension of disbelief. When a character confesses to having lapses of clarity, she could be commenting on the play itself.

Under Jack Hofsiss' direction, several of the actors find a security within the work's fluctuating rhythms: Ms. Hower, Paul McCrane as her assailant, and Mr. Whaley, who brings an impish charm to the underwritten role of the photographer.

Late in the play, as the characters prepare for another wedding, two offstage occurrences shatter the temporary equilibrium. The family's festive dinner is sent to the wrong household and the wedding dress is mistakenly delivered to a different bride, who promptly wears it. In exasperation, Ms. Harden asks, "Who are these people living our lives?" That line echoes back through a play in which the inexplicable is commonplace.


Directed by: Jack Hofsiss
Stage Manager: Thomas A. Kelly

Besetzung:
Bartholomew . . Paul
Andrea . . . Nancy Hower
Isabella . . . Marcia Gay
Harden Andrew . . . Frank Whaley
Eloise . . . Julie Hagerty
Jeffrey . . . William Fichtner



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