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While Waiting in Limbo…
by Enda Walsh

May 3 – 28, 2017
St. Ann’s Warehouse presents
“Arlington” by Enda Walsh, an American Premiere
A Landmark productions/ Galway International Festival Production
St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water Street in Brooklyn Bridge Park (DUMBO)
Tues. – Sat. May 3-6, 9-13, 16-20, 23-27 @ 8PM, Sat. May 6,13,20, 27 @ 3PM,
Sun. May 14, 21, 28 @ 2PM
Tickets: $45-60 at www.stannswarehouse.org , 718-254-8779 or 866-811-4111
Reviewed by Beate Hein Bennett, May 7, 2017


Samuel Beckett depicted life as endurance defined by waiting. We may talk, move, stay or sink in place, suffer, pass the time or not, yet we wait, for what to come we do not know. Fellow Irish playwright Enda Walsh, two generations younger than Beckett, also seems to be captivated by the idea of life as a series of waiting games. Both have made excellent theater out of this metaphor. However, in “Arlington” Enda Walsh adds a hypermodern sensibility to this entropic vision—it derives from the experience of technological solipsism and urban cubicle living that has literally unmoored the human being from nature and each other. Life is experienced—I deliberately use the passive voice-- as a series of mediated disconnected virtual images while one is conveyed from one cubicle to another. Time and space no longer have three dimensions—they are pressed into a small rectangle. Until reality blows up!

Photo by Teddy Wolff

When the curtain first opens onto the full width of the stage, the audience is confronted by a white cube of a room with one window high off the floor in the stage left wall. Downstage right a small corner of a booth houses several monitors and a desk for a technician. In the white back wall towards upstage left is a closed narrow door and next to it, towards the center of the wall, an aquarium with a couple of plastic green seaweeds floating in the water but no fish. In the upstage right corner a plastic large green plant with a pile of discarded clothes. Lined up near the stage-right wall, three joined blue plastic chairs, as one would find in an impersonal corporate waiting room, complete the sterile environment. The impeccable set design by Jamie Vartan comes to life with Adam Silverman’s brilliant light design that alternates cold white light with streams of twilight from the window and shadow effects of the actor on stage. Jack Phelan’s video effects create at times a curious skewed and shaky doubling of the walls enhancing the sense of an unsettling internal and external reality. Videos streaming on the back wall support the text sometimes as a visual commentary or as poetic imagery underscoring the narrative monologues of Isla, the sole character on stage, that range from dreamy memory to actual experience.

At the outset we see Isla, played by Charlie Murphy, standing in the middle of the room for some time, looking up at the window, absolutely still as though transfixed by a vision. We hear the sound of gulls when suddenly the scratchy noises from a small transistor radio on a bench below the window cuts into the stillness. A flash of bright light, a blackout—darkness and silence envelop stage and audience for some moments; then some off-stage noises and a muffled voice, testing a microphone. When the light comes back on, a young man sits at the desk in the side-booth by a microphone. Isla reacts—her first moves are precise and simple like those of a dancer. What follows is an amalgam of text and movement, video and sound-scapes, fragments of pop music, and dialogue via microphone between Isla on stage and the Young Man in the booth. The text is full of enigmatic references and ominous intimations of dreadful events inside the tower in which this room is located and outside where things at other nearby towers are happening that upset Isla. It is also mysterious why Isla is in this room; she has a number for when she will be called to leave. As the scene and Isla’s narrations unfold, we are drawn bit by bit into her inner dream world as well as it reflects life lived in our times—especially that of the young—the relentless discarding of human lives by corporate systems, the sterile isolation of living and working conditions, the violent work rhythms, the tearing apart of family and social relations, and finally the exhausted longing for love. Isla speaks of all of that to the Young Man, through the wall, before her number 5824 finally flashes above the door and she walks out into the unknown.

Scene 2 starts in silence and darkness from which gradually an ever more powerful and relentless marching can be heard. As the lights come up, the booth is empty but we see a Young Woman (Oona Doherty) in jogging pants hunched over, ferociously marching in place, slapping the rhythm with her hands on her thighs, finally beginning to run in an ever tightening circle. Teho Teardo’s music accompanies Oona Doherty’s twenty minute pause-less wordless mono-dance of a human being trapped in this white cage. Her pure energy and expressive force complemented Charlie Murphy’s verbal and mimetic energy. Her athletic strength seemed limitless while her physical discipline and keen sense of form enabled Emma Martin’s complex choreography to express in a more primal form what Walsh expressed in the first scene through his text.

The third scene is the Young Man’s scene; unmeasured time has passed. He enters the stage, his bloodied face and shirt showing a violent encounter. From the booth we hear the voice of a female Supervisor (Olwen Fouere) and see her face on the monitors. She demands he retell his stories of childhood. As she cues him, his stories become more and more nightmarish. Hugh O’Conor tells some horrific childhood stories of a dysfunctional family life in a place where nature is dying; he renders these stories with a grim humor befitting his violated body—until the Supervisor forces him to tell what he really saw outside before he entered the room. He talks into the same microphone that Isla used in the first scene and the play comes full circle. He tells about the horror that he really saw outside, as Isla reappears. They are given the time to experience a quiet dreamlike apotheosis—“today our spirit will walk a distance.” Enda Walsh subtitles the play “A Love Story.” Ultimately the play is about the promise, the possibility, a hope for building something better “when it’s over.” It is a powerful, ambiguous vision enacted by a superb trio of actors.

In conjunction with “Arlington” at St. Ann’s Warehouse, the Irish Arts Center is showing “Rooms,” a trio of theatrical installations by Enda Walsh. Three small rooms are completely furnished: a kitchen, a little girl’s bedroom, and Room 303. In each a voice narrates the particular story and emotional journey of the person who inhabits the space. They are small gems of psychic insights. The installation is at CYBERT TIRE (site of the future home of the Irish Arts Center) at 726 Eleventh Avenue @51st Street. Tickets are available by calling 866-811-4111 or online www.irishartscenter.org/rooms



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