nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 15, 2005
Beyond Reason is a new one-act play by Nichol Alexander about, well, exactly what its title says its about. Daniela is, as far as we can tell, a typical twentysomething woman living in New York, with a job, a fiancé, and a mother from somewhere else whom she does not get along with. But—and this happens before the start of the play—suddenly her fiancé, John, is killed in an automobile accident. Daniela, deeply in love and deeply romantic, isn't sure whether she can go on. Beyond Reason traces her journey following John's death, and suggests that for some people, the death of true love is the death of everything.
We meet Daniela in a strip club, in the wee hours of a morning, where she flirts with a nice-looking young man named Izzy. Her mission is apparently to submerge herself in sensory pleasure to forget her pain. She falters just a bit, and then brings Izzy home for a late night of sex and alcohol.
Izzy is intrigued by this woman who picked him up under such bizarre circumstances, even after he finds out about John's very recent death. Daniela is torn between Izzy, who turns out to be a much nicer guy than she expected, and John, whose specter haunts her. Daniela's mother, Susan, arrives unexpectedly and stays with her, determined to see her through the funeral and, after she learns about it, just as determined to squelch the possible budding relationship with Izzy.
Eventually, John's ghost seems to be asking Daniela to spend eternity with him now, and like a modern-day Orpheus, Daniela begins to explore ways to kill herself to be with the man she loves. In different ways, and with different strategies, Izzy and Susan try to prevent Daniela from committing suicide. The suspense in the final half of Beyond Reason lies in who among the three will prevail.
Alexander's writing and plotting has a certain visceral quality that makes the play fairly compelling as it spins out. But the characters all feel underdeveloped: we just don't have enough information to understand why Daniela is behaving in the erratic way that she is (we have to take her romantic streak, her impetuousness, and her tragic self-image pretty much as givens; Alexander doesn't supply underlying motivation or psychology); similarly, it's not clear why Izzy, who seems fairly centered, is willing to invest so much in a relationship with a woman he met in a strip club a couple of days ago; or why Susan is so opposed to Izzy's presence. John's ghost speaks to Izzy at one point, which is confusing; a woman (billed as "Angel" in the program) appears from time to time to perform various acts ranging from dancing at the strip club to handing Daniela some razor blades for a suicide attempt—the meaning of this character is also somewhat unclear.
Director Kira Simring has staged the play with economy and efficiency on a very spare unit set built around a large bench-like piece that serves as bed, sofa, chairs, table, etc., even opening up at one point to turn into a bathtub. (Ryan Scott is the designer). A great deal of time is spent turning this piece this way or that during scene transitions—a very distracting bit of business. But the lighting (by Nick Keslake) is exquisite and evocative, especially as reflected in the Venetian blinds that provide the backdrop to Scott's set.
The cast includes both the playwright's mother (as Susan) and the director's father (as a doctor), which suggests admirable family support for the project; alas neither of these novice actors brings much to their roles apart from being the right age for them. The younger members of the ensemble—who are professional actors—fare better, especially Josh Peters, who is enormously likable as Izzy. Tracee Chimo, as Daniela, runs through a range of emotions impressively (and cries real tears at an unexpected moment); but I never felt that she quite connected the dots in this admittedly sketchy role. I left Beyond Reason comprehending intellectually why this woman may have done some of the things that she did, but without ever really achieving a deep understanding of, or emotional connection with, this potentially intriguing protagonist.