nytheatre.com review by Ethan Angelica
August 17, 2012
It always seems a risky proposition to hold an interactive, environmental theater piece in a functioning bar. If things go south, you may very well wind up fending off drunken patrons while you attempt to perform, especially if part of your task is to sit down next to them and engage them eye-to-eye. Thankfully for Honest, premiering at FringeNYC this year, neither audience nor performer have anything to fear. In fact, you'll want to be sure you have a drink in hand by the end so you can toast the extraordinary performance you'll have witnessed.
British playwright DC Moore's monodrama Honest is the story of Dave, an overworked, underpaid, marginalized civil servant working within the confines of an overly-bureaucratic government agency. He has come to his local watering hole to blow off steam, and reveals that he can no longer lie, or censor himself. (Evidenced by the fact that I cannot print his first line here, as much as I would like to.) From there, we follow his tale of an alcohol-induced quest to lighten up, during which he tells off his boss in a bar room and journeys homeward to find his nephew, for whom he hopes to better the world. His rage comes from a dissolution, and semi-disgusted fascination, with the "1%", and the depression and isolation of the social injustice he finds himself in. It's all very appropriate for our own dog-eat-dog city, and the recent politics that has taken people into the streets.
What is so successful, and so utterly satisfying, about Honest is Lavi Zytner's extraordinarily precise and complex performance. From his unexpected entrance, to his semi-improvised moments (his interactions with the bartender when I attended were priceless), to the extraordinary power he finds in stillness, Zytner embodies a character who is charmingly likeable, disturbingly misanthropic and entirely identifiable to anyone who has ever worked a thankless job. He is a spectacular physical performer, producing the environment of Dave's journey with the simplest and smallest of gestures, while maintaining a character whose physical awkwardness is both endearing and unnerving. Under Shlomo Plessner and Premshay Hermon's swift direction, and amid Kobi Vitman's evocative soundscape, Honest becomes a transformative evening that had the entire bar alight with discussion afterwards.
TheaterCan, an Israeli company, is producing the New York premiere of this already internationally-performed play, and it's one not to be missed. It's the kind of innovative, poetic theater that demands active participation from its audience, and, if you are ready to rise to the challenge for its 50 minute duration, you will be mightily rewarded.