Music & Lyrics by THE BENGSONS
Additional Lyrics by RACHEL BONDS
Directed by ANNE KAUFFMAN
@ the McGinn/Cazale Theater (Bway btw. 76th & 77th St.)
Now thru April 1.
You would be hard pressed to find a more satisfying theatrical experience than the one being offered by the current Ars Nova/WP Theater production of "Sundown, Yellow Moon" by Rachel Bonds. Described as a "nighttime play with songs," this drama follows the crepuscular activities of a divorced father, his two grown daughters, and various other individuals with whose lives they intersect. Each character in this quietly beautiful play is broken in some way, and has a song or a poem just busting to get out. These flawed individuals, in their brokenness, lean on one another to get through the night and into a new day.
The ensemble is top notch from top to bottom. Eboni Booth is Joey, Lilli Cooper is her sister, Ray, and Peter Friedman is their father, Tom, who is recovering from losing a wife and a job. Carver (JD Taylor) visits Tom to offer anger management coaching, but he brings his own baggage that relates to issues of abuse earlier in his life. He and Tom run into a snag in their relationship, and Carver withdraws into himself until he is coaxed by Ray to pick up a guitar and reprise a song he wrote and sang years ago at a prom. He comes to life as he gives himself permission first to touch the instrument, and then to allow the music that he and it produce together to touch him. A continuing motif in this play is the healing and saving power of music, a gentle balm amidst a variety of seeping wounds. The Bengsons have written original songs for this play that shape the action, the mood, and the characters.
Greg Keller portrays Ted Driscoll, a married minor poet with writer's block who stirs emotions within Joey that neither of them know how to handle. She is not sure she should go to Berlin to pursue the Fulbright Scholarship she has earned. Her frustrating friendship with Ted leads to a crisis which Carver is able to help to ameliorate. Michael Pemberton and Anne L. Nathan round out this fine cast as supportive friends of Tom.
|Annie L. Nathan as Jean|
Michael Pemberton as Bobby/DJ
Eboni Booth as Joey
Peter Friedman as Tom
Lilli Cooper as Ray
"Sundown, Yellow Moon" by Rachel Bonds
Ars Nova/WP Theater
Through April 1st
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Another theme is an almost Chekhovian failure to connect by people who are trying to show that they care for each other. "I am worried about you" is a phrase that echoes from daughter to father and back again. Physical touch is often awkward, tentative and misunderstood. Much that is communicated is communicated in silence and pregnant pauses. This is a gently told tale of flawed human beings trying to get by and to help one another as best they can.
The ensemble are artfully directed by Anne Kauffman. She orchestrates the interactions among the characters like a conductor leading an exquisite chamber orchestra. The rustic set is designed by Lauren Helpern, Lighting by Isabella Byrd and Matty Frey, Costumes by Jessica Pabst, and Sound by Leah Gelpe.
The sun will set on this production on April 1st. No fooling! You do not want to miss this deeply satisfying play.
Ars Nova Website