nytheatre.com review by Alyssa Simon
August 10, 2013
A scene from HALF
The start of a marriage can be like a fairytale. Spouses are royalty who rule over the private dominion of their castle or one-bedroom apartment. But Becca Foresman’s HALF, a terrifically absurd and hysterically funny two-person farce acted by Foresman and Adam Zivkovic, shows what happens when Their Majesties divorce, the magic spell breaks and innocents are left to pick up the pieces. No really. It’s very funny.
Foresman plays a simple maidservant, a haughty Queen, a nutty therapist equally full of Yiddish slang and psychobabble and a jarringly loud cuckoo in a clock, while Zivkovic is the equally simple and befuddled valet, arrogant yet insecure king and a flamboyantly manipulative interior decorator. All the characters at one point interact with each other and at the wonderfully dizzying height of the chaos, it seems like they are all on stage at the same time.
In the beginning, the King and Queen are having a marital spat at the royal dining table. The argument escalates to screaming, broken furniture and popped water balloons, which represent food that when bitten into explode all over the actors and stage. In a very clever running joke, balloons are also twisted into crowns and used as noisemakers when let go of to signify a celebration.
The two servants must not only clean up the aftermath, they have to find a way to get the two royals back together, so they won’t be out of a job. Foresman and Zivkovic play the maid and valet not like the traditionally sly and crafty servants in commedia farces, but more like children who are afraid of what will happen to them when Mom and Dad split up.
It is really quite emotionally moving and thoughtful. It also adds depth to their scrambling to clean the room to make things right or sit and think as they try to balance on chairs broken in half. In a theatrically delightful contrast, the therapist and interior decorator are the villainous cynical grown-ups who make a deal with each other to exploit the royals emotional weaknesses to steal their wealth before the lawyers divvy it up.
Director Cara M. Tucker keeps the slapstick pace moving like a cyclone, but not so fast that we miss the subtleties and wordplay of Foresman’s very witty and topical text.
Costume designer Maggie McGrann also adds to the zaniness by dressing the two actors in identical knee-high lace-up sneakers and outfits of bright pink and blue. It is a testimony to Foresman and Zivkovic that they can transform their clown-like apparel into royal garments and then into the trendy wear of sycophants simply through the exacting specificity of their body language and manners. I can’t recommend this show highly enough!