nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
March 30, 2006
In Putney, Vermont, a young woman accidentally hits a deer with her car; her boyfriend, who has difficulty remembering things, can't find the dead deer when he returns with a shovel to bury it, and so eventually his sister has to find the body and dispose of it. En route, she meets an ex-boyfriend and there is a momentary flash of regret/lingering romance.
In London, two brothers accidentally meet at Heathrow Airport and impetuously decide to go to Belgrade together that afternoon.
In Belgrade, a long time ago, the older brother has the exact same dream as the girl who buries the deer (she's in New York at the time).
Somewhere else, unspecified, now, a woman wanders out of her house in her nightgown with her husband's wallet and car keys, and mysteriously disappears.
This is the world of Bryn Manion's exquisite and exciting new play Force: Convergence, where pasts and futures collide (just as the title suggests) in hopes of building a meaningful present. Convergence is the third piece of the Force trilogy, begun by Manion in 2004 (the other parts are titled Wanderllust and Threshold); I've not seen the other two, and in a way I'm glad not to have: the gaps in the back story tantalize rather than confuse, enhancing the magic of this remarkable, impressionistic experience.
Manion has staged her work herself, in a big open space at the brand new New York Irish Center in Long Island City: the set looks kind of like an airy, spacious apartment, with rooms and locations mapped out (and a kitchen just visible off to one side). In this world, Manion creates what feels like the theatrical equivalent of a Robert Altman film—separate but overlapping stories, told non-linearly and even sometimes in stream-of-consciousness; a puzzle that approximates real life in that we are always able to make sense of it even though there are always pieces missing. It's a significant and worthy accomplishment.
Uniting the disparate tales are some coincidences and some common characters (even the silent wandering woman figures in some of the other stories here). Convergence meditates, over and over again, in different and increasingly complex ways, on the nature of memory and dreams; on the conflict between our desire to resolve, parse, understand all that came before and the impossibility of ever managing to satisfactorily do so. Manion peppers her play with breathtaking images that reinforce her main ideas: an amnesiac burying his fossil collection so that he can find it again; a pair of long-separated lovers finding each other in the midst of a chaotic political rally. With words and visuals, Manion creates a highly theatrical look at some of the fundamental forces that define our humanity.
Bringing the stories to life are a skilled cast of ten, of whom perhaps the most indelible is Shawn Mahoney as Rob, the amnesiac mechanic who can't remember where his girlfriend hit the deer. Liza Pross is touching and lovely as said girlfriend, Sara; Benjamin Beckley does double duty as Charlie Owen, the Vermont electrician who was once in love with Anne (Rob's sister), and a Communist rabble-rouser in London's Hyde Park. Also double-cast are Elizabeth Sugarman (as the woman who loves Anne's brother-in-law and a young Serbian woman who makes her living, apparently, by holding her breath in public) and Sarah Stephens (Anne's husband's Serbian translator and the holding-her-breath girl's sister/manager). Aaron Mathias is compelling as Anne's brother-in-law Brian, though Berto Colon, who has a tendency to swallow his lines, is less effective as Anne's husband Jack. As Anne, Wendy Remington really springs to life in the play's second act, particularly in her scenes with Mahoney. Anchoring the play (despite being most tangential to its primary storylines) are Randy Harmon and Karen Grenke, who are terrific as Hal and Lotte, the married couple who are suddenly torn asunder when she, in the very first scene, inexplicably walks out their front door.
I had been hearing very good things about Manion and Aisling Arts, the five-year-old theatre company she co-founded with Wendy Remington; I am very glad to have had a chance to see Convergence, which is a dazzling introduction to their work. I will look forward eagerly to whatever these young women do next.