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Paulanne Simmons

"EXIT/ENTRANCE" Is a Gentle Study of Relationships

Greg Mullavey and Linda Thorson. Photo by Ari Mintz.

Directed by M. Burke Walker
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison
From Sept. 10, 2010
Wed. 7:15, Thurs. thru Fri. 8:15, Sat. 2:15 & 8:15, Sun. 3:15
Tickets: $25 (212) 279-4200 or www.59E59.org
Closes Oct. 3, 2010
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 15, 2010

In case there are any theatergoers who haven't noticed, the 3rd annual Irish Festival is upon us. The festival runs from Sept. 7 through Oct. 3, and that means poetry will be in the air for approximately four weeks in New York City. Aiden Mathews' "EXIT/ENTRANCE," which is receiving its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters, is a fine example of what the Irish can do with the English language.

The drama is actually two interrelated plays. The first deals with the final moments of an aging couple: Charles (Greg Mullavey), a retired classics professor and his wife, Helen (Linda Thorson). The second is about a young couple who, having returned from a trip to Greece, are moving into the apartment over Charles and Helen's.

David L. Townsend and Lara Hillier.

The younger couple also has the names Charles and Helen. Charles (David L. Townsend) sees the world through the eyes of the ancient Greeks. His live-in girlfriend, Helen (Lara Hillier), keeps trying to bring him back to the present and their life together.

While the older couple's conversation is all about the past, the younger couple speaks a great deal about the future. Helen is particularly concerned with marriage and having children.

Nevertheless, the two couples mirror each other in many ways, reflecting the growth and development of relationships over the years. Both men are solicitous of their partners, yet both have in some way disappointed the women they hold dear. The men attempt to be resolute and sure of themselves, yet they easily crack under strain. The women are largely passive, but they have a subtle, often hidden strength that comes to the fore, sometimes unexpectedly.

Each couple is aware of the other's existence. The older Helen talks about the "young, pink from the cold" couple "carting in pots and pans, and skillets, and a big wooden clothes horse." We hear the younger couple hammering on the walls and find out they have slipped a not of apology under the door of the older couple.

The younger Helen finds the older Helen both attractive and bit forbidding. She says Helen has beautiful hands and suspicious eyes. When Charles hangs up a picture, we remember the couple below responding. These clever correspondences might be trite in less capable hands. In "EXIT/ENTRANCE" they seem to convey two links in Alexander Pope's great chain of being.

There is not much action in either EXIT or ENTRANCE. The older couple move in and out of the room, sometimes with no apparent reason. The younger couple unpacks books and plays with puppets. The conversation is punctuated by a car's headlights seen from the window in Act I and the chime of a clock in Act II.

None of this gives director M. Burke Walker a great deal to work with. But Matthews' dialogue is so evocative and the acting so smooth and natural one can surely see some guiding hand keeping the play moving to its very satisfying conclusion.


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