Hiding Behind Comets
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
July 8, 2009
Troy and Honey are twin siblings working at their family-run bar. All is quiet on a typical summer night. Honey and Troy's girlfriend Erin want to go to a friend's party. An innocuous middle-aged stranger named Cole stumbles in. Some heated interactions ensue, but there's little reason for concern as the twins debate whether to close the bar early. But Cole is no ordinary beer guzzler; he's there for a reason, and has an unusual interest in Troy. He has an extremely dark past and believes that he might be the young man's father. Or worse. Troy might have a more evil association. Cole puts Troy under a series of subtle and not-so-subtle mental tests, the outcome of which will determine whether or not Troy lives or dies.
Brian Dykstra's play is a knockout psychological thriller with simmering suspense at every turn. There is nary a wasted moment in the script of twists and revelations which raises multiple emotionally charged moral issues. Dykstra's richly drawn characters have complicated connections to each other (including an ambiguous sexual bond between the twins themselves).
Mounting Hiding Behind Comets is one bold initiative. This is an adult play, not for the feint-of-heart. Considering the subject matter, if put into the wrong hands, the drama might collapse. Director John Trevellini serves the script well by staging the production in an interactive bar setting with audience members made to feel like bar patrons (right down to a dartboard and cocktail tables). This turns out to be a double-edged sword, however: as the actors move in and around the audience, the blocking during the play's critical moments actually obstructs some of the action.
The pacing here is good, and the shifts in character status are effective, sustaining the dramatic tension. Aspects of the production are muddled, however. Key points of dialogue are stumbled over, and the action is sometimes sloppy (especially, when Cole holds Troy at gunpoint). Overall, everything seems a bit lighter than it could be. The lustful energy of the three twentysomethings feels oddly tame. The sudden appearance of weapons is only marginally threatening. The production seems to lack the dynamic edge called for by the script.
Oliver Conant as Cole conveys an eccentric interpretation of the mysterious stranger. He portrays a weathered man permanently askew due to the horrors of his past. Conant accomplishes the difficult task of evoking some sympathy for such an unsavory character. He is more peculiar than menacing. Rebecca Challis and David Tully are reasonably consistent and sympathetic as the twins and appropriately express the incredulity of their circumstances. Tully is amiable, but seems a bit too grounded and mature to play the 22-year-old Troy.
Steven Wolf's smart, moody lighting design bolsters the production. He helps create tension with subtle, selective shifts of light, which works well with Trevellini's simple yet appealing bar set.