nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
August 13, 2010
Amid the traditional chaos of the New York International Fringe Festival this year is the intelligent, funny new play Running by Arlene Hutton. Audiences will be greeted with a compelling and insightful evening of theatre with this production.
Running (an apt title with a host of literal and metaphorical meanings) has a simple table setting for a story. Stephen is alone preparing for a full night's sleep on the eve of his very first marathon. His wife is out of the country, giving him a chance to prepare. Enter Emily, an animated ex-roommate of Stephen's wife. Due to a mix-up, she has no hotel reservations and needs a place to sleep. Stephen, completely consumed with getting the proper rest for an early wakeup, sees his plans are in jeopardy. He reluctantly invites Emily to sleep over; he hopes he can put her and her troubles to rest for the night. Emily's presence makes this impossible.
We soon learn there's a partially shared history between Stephen and Emily. They were each roommates in the same multi-room apartment in which Stephen now resides. Stephen has long since married the woman who held the lease. This unusual, seemingly random meeting eventually provokes each character to examine who they were decades earlier and who they are now.
Stephen, an unemployed architect whose time in the spotlight has long passed, has slowly become complacent and withdrawn. Emily has just fled her husband after discovering sexually explicit photographs of him with two young women.
Both characters warm to each other throughout the night, candidly revealing changing attitudes about marriage, careers, and dreams. Each could also be at a crossroads.
Accomplished playwright Arlene Hutton has written a smart, funny script with a strong narrative and complete studies of two identifiable characters. Lori Wolter Hudson and Beth Lincks share directing credit and have done a terrific job. The naturalistic approach to all aspects of the production works splendidly. The play rings true.
The performances by Seth Barrish and Lee Brock are at all times unquestionably real. Their natural connection is honest and touching. Watching their work is a pleasure. The play breezes by, coming to a satisfying resolution; we're almost disappointed that we don't have more time with the characters.
Despite a minimal set with a few pieces of furniture, a rich picture of the apartment is presented. It plays an interesting role as the third entity in the play.
The producers of the production, the Journey Company, have the distinction of producing the very first FringeNYC production to transfer off-Broadway (Last Train to Nibroc in 1998). It's easy to see an equally promising future for this production. Running is a very real, human drama about two human beings and is an important entry in this year's FringeNYC.