The Knowledge & Conversation of My Guardian Angel
nytheatre.com review by Kevin Connell
August 15, 2004
This is the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company’s fifth year at the New York International Fringe Festival. If you’re a fan of their previous work, go see this show and continue to support their continued contributions to new contemporary theatre.
Be prepared, though: The Knowledge & Conversation of My Holy Guardian Angel, or An Old Fashioned Love Story, unfortunately appeared to me to be an unfinished play and left me unsatisfied as I witnessed their work for the first time. In fact, this one-hour play feels more like the first half of a much longer piece. I wanted Act II. The play begins with four actors (in costume) on stage—four, even though there are only two credited in the program. The two uncredited actors, Lauren Jalazo and Johnson Cooley (listed as Assistant Stage Managers) move and interact through all scene transitions and are quite integral to the intrigue of the story. I assume that they are portraying the subjects of the drama, the missing twin sister and the husband shot in the head while on a sailing trip. All scenes focus on the brother and the wife, played by John C. Cunningham and Mikaela Kafka respectively, and their shared losses. But their story feels more like the back-story, interesting yes, but incomplete. Who do I ultimately care about? The sister and the husband. Like Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain, I wanted The Knowledge & Conversation of… to unravel and clarify itself in a second act that goes back in time and tells the unexpected truth of the sister and the husband, the unexplained story that is haunting the wife and the brother. The “Assistant Stage Managers” are given a well-deserved curtain call at the end, but I felt cheated of the truth they needed to tell.
I wanted more. You see—Tom Sleigh is an imagistic and challenging playwright who constructs contemporary language with the insight of a poet. He feeds the Victorian soul with an epic awareness of the Greeks, while constructing characters that live in the most contemporary of settings.
Gregg Bellon’s direction is simple as he shapes this character-driven production. I would love to see his work on film, as his strengths live in the subtleties of each moment. Kafka and Cunningham give even performances, but I wanted them to trust more poignantly the silences between them, as moments are rushed, particularly in the third scene when the tensions need to build to a greater suspense.
The strength of FringeNYC is that it is a testing ground for new plays and upcoming artists. My hope is that the Hudson Exploited Theatre Company takes full advantage of this opportunity to investigate the continued development of this play, while receiving the support of generous audiences.