Through March 10|
BEGINNING AGAIN Alleyway Theatre
Death and families.
That’s an endless source of material in theater, but it’s also an endless source of problems in life.
Dad dies, Mom dies, a child dies.
What does that do to the family.
I’m not talking about families of any particular age, just death and families, like an upcoming production of Marsha Norman’s “night, Mother.”
In David Alan Brown’s “Beginning Again,” Mom has died very recently and cultural critic Noland Oliver (David Hayes) and Hamilton College son Dante (Adam Hayes) are grappling with the fallout.
They may never quite recover since Mom was clearly the glue holding the family together and propping up husband and son.
We never learn if she was also juggling a professional life with her family life, dying way too young.
One of the fascinating thing about the script is how little detailed the story is.
We learn in Act I that Noland (David Hayes) is aboard Amtrak on the way to Washington, as he does every week.
We don’t know why.
In Act II, he’s driving down a country road in rural Pennsylvania and hits the end and can’t decide what to do.
We don’t know why.
In Act III, he and Dante (Adam Hayes) are in an art galley for an opening and wander into a display room filled with classic Impressionist paintings and talk about art, life, family and the life of the mind.
Brown’s not in his first rodeo and knows backstory doesn’t always matter.
Since this is the Alleyway, the show you see may not be the show I saw since that’s what this Theater District landmark so often does, take a new script and tinker with it, far beyond the staged reading process.
Brown and Alleyway impresario and show director Neal Radice told a talk-back changes had been made already and more were in the works.
The real glue in the production is a startlingly strong performance from David Hayes, a veteran figure on the local stage.
In Act I, he’s trying to avoid life and winds up in something of a confrontation with his seat-mate Anita (Smirna Mercedes-Perez), showing his cultural values, those of the upper crust cultural establishment, while Anita is just herself, wearing an obscene t-shirt and an attitude, while trying to help Noland.
In Act II, Noland is wandering around at the end of the road and winds up meeting Gene, a fisherman (Tom Owen) who tries to make the new widower come to grips with this problem.
It’s not a surprise he’s an aging college professor.
In this last scene, father tries to use his undoubted experience with death to buck up his son, who likely has between little and no experience with the end of life, telling him he just has to put one foot in front of the other to get through a time of tragedy.
From the first two acts, Noland clearly doesn’t believe it but has to say something to his son.
My guess is that the playwright wants to rework son Dante because he’s so much of a psychologically struggling son while the psychologically struggling Dad has enough experience with death to know it usually gets somewhat better.
He uses his work to beat back the demons of survival.
David Hayes puts on the kind of performance likely to be rewarded when the Arties come around this summer and Mercedes-Perez isn’t far behind.
Owen just doesn’t have a lot to work with, although that could change in the coming weeks.
Director Radice also contributed an effectively minimalist set, making good use of the photo screen backdrop.
“Beginning Again” is a really interesting play made worth seeing by David Hayes’ performance.
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