nytheatre.com review by Case Aiken
August 17, 2010
Lenny's Dead is the story of one man's grief, told by two men: Lenny, the already dead, and Hank, the man who mourns his loss. Writer Alex Giacin plays Hank, a Vietnam vet trapped in a cycle of misery and denial, fixated on his Sergeant, Lenny, who died before his eyes 39 years earlier. Lenny, played by Daniel Willey at the performance I saw but played by Rob Richnavsky for all future performances, acts as Hank's guide, leading him through the memories and forcing him to confront some of the harsher truths. The dynamic works pretty well and there is certainly a lot of heart behind the piece, enough to overcome any of the show's weaknesses, making this an enjoyable work.
The performance I attended had a talkback after it, so I was able to have some of my questions answered directly and hear a few comments from the writer and director John Long about the piece. The piece is strong from an emotional standpoint, but there was a consensus that there are some structural elements that need work. Particularly, there is a discussion of the cyclical nature of Hank's grief and the lies he tells himself to get through the day, but the resolution never brings the closure that is implied will come. If that were the point, it would be more consistent, albeit more depressing, but closure seems to be the goal, which it doesn't quite reach. The work is still being refined, so I have faith it will be solved in the next iteration.
Another concern was the occasional peeks into Lenny's life, as I had trouble understanding exactly where Hank was getting this information. Are these things Lenny told him that Hank suppressed, or are they suppositions? I couldn't tell, and maybe that could be explored a little further. Also, those times when Lenny's past is discussed are the only points where Giacin plays a different character (other than Hank), which seemed awkward after his excellent portrayals of the various life stages of Hank. It's a minor complaint and the background on Lenny does give us a lot of insight into who he was, I just wish it was a little smoother.
Regardless of some rough edges, the show is very good. I understand another production is already in the works, so I look forward to seeing how it develops.