nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
June 4, 2009
Within the first five minutes of Strangers it was apparent that the overhead video projections would be a very distracting device in this story of love remitting. It would take an absorbing script and some potent performances to force the three large areas of projection into the background, while abetting a conscious understanding of the characters. Unfortunately this was not the case.
Daniel, a Romanian immigrant, has been married to Jen for nearly five years. Jen, who loves her husband, is feeling uncertain whether the marriage was one of convenience for Daniel; allowing him to obtain U.S. citizenship. To put her fears to rest she is planning a party celebrating their union where Daniel will stand on a pedestal and declare his true love for her. Daniel is resistant to the idea (and, frankly, whether he loves her or not, who wouldn't be?). They live in a high-rise building. We know this because, yes, a static image of a high-rise building is projected over the characters heads. Well, not exactly static; the image flickers often (and annoyingly). At first I wrote it off as a technical glitch—no big deal. But then I watched it, waiting for the next flicker, and realized it was intentional: the image is slightly panning so we get to see a few more inches of the drab looking building.
At times the married couple head out from their flickering dwelling to search for counseling from friends and strangers. Daniel goes to his best friend Bob, a guy laid up with mono or depression, who is deeply in love with his friend. Bob is as frustrated as we are that he has to tell Daniel—again—what everyone in the theater already knows: Daniel doesn't love Jen.
One interesting character emerges as several different storylines awkwardly overlap: the lovelorn receptionist of Daniel's lawyer is obsessed with classic film noir. She plunges herself into some of these classic films and portrays the iconic femme fatales as the films are needlessly projected all over the stage. Franny Silverman playing the receptionist/femme fatale gives a charismatic and dynamic performance capturing the sumptuousness of noir.
Many of the other actors wander around reciting lines with seemingly no interest in the characters they portray. Partly to blame is director Shoshona Currier's pallid direction and her jumbled stage composition. Nastaran Ahmadi writes some provocative lines in her attempt to explore the topic of lovers caught in the bureaucracy of procuring U.S. citizenship. But her mostly unsympathetic characters are much like that projection of the building: we mark them by inches, not by the immeasurable movement of the human heart.