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Roberta Pikser


"In the Common Hour"
April 19-20, 24-28, May 1-4, 2024 all at 8:00 p.m.
New Stage Performance Space 36 West 106th Street, Basement
Note: This space is not wheelchair accessible
Subways: #1, B, C to 103rd Street. www.newstagetheatre.org
Running time: 75 minutes (No intermission)
Tickets: $35 gen. admission, $25 seniors & students. Buy tickets:
Information: 212-768-4191
Reviewed by Roberta Pikser April 20, 2024

Theodore Bouloukos, Lexa Infante, Gina Bonati, Lisa Giobbi, Justin Ivan Brown. Photo by Lee Wexler | Images for Innovation

When, in our lives, if ever, do we assess the path we find ourselves on? Is that confrontation, if it happens, an awakening, or is it part of an ongoing dream? Ildiko Nemeth’s new multi-media work takes place inside the projection of a painting of a Southwest motel, isolated in the desert, where seven strangers find themselves and play out the roles that exemplify each others’ insecurities, secret desires, and confrontations. At bottom, the play, written by Marie Glancy O’Shea, asks us to consider the meaning of our lives: Is life a carnival, a walk in the woods, a discovery, a torture, or a charade? Is there love, or only betrayal? Or is it all these things at once? At the end of the performance, we must really confront ourselves, whether in our dreams or in our realities.

The New Stage Theatre Company’s tiny performance space, in the basement of a hostel, becomes a vortex of time, space, and emotions. This vortex of words and characters is enriched by the backdrop, onto which are projected Nan Xu and Nonoka Sipos Judit’s suggestive pictures, patterns, and moving shapes that morph into indefinable figures, sucking us in or merely dazing us.

Ildeko Nemeth’s staging is full of movement, so that the actors often seem to be many more than they are. The inventive and attractive costuming by Danielle Aziza adds to the mystery of the play and sometimes, though not always, clarifies it. Especially intriguing is the figure of a cactus, which hasclearly hopped off the screen of the first background projection to move into the space of one of the dreamers.

The actors portrayed many different characters as they participated in each other’s fears and dreams, and clearly enjoyed doing so, but Gina Bonati was engrossing. The characters she portrayed were the only ones who did not confront themselves, being hosts, or controllers, or perhaps personifications of fate; they might be taken for variations of one character. However, in Ms. Bonati’s hands, each one was distinct and some even brought humor to this essentially dark piece. Further, Ms. Bonati gave her words the weight that comes from thinking about what they mean, or might mean. On a technical level, her enunciation was precise and her voice filled the space, which, though small, has less than perfect acoustics, especially when complicated by the overlay of Kris Force’s mysterious music. Under Ms. Bonati’s guidance, one, relax and enjoy not only her mastery of her craft but the work of the rest of the cast.

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