nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 4, 2007
Eric Winick is a terrific writer. (I'm very sure I'd say that even if he didn't write reviews for nytheatre.com every summer or wasn't a member of our advisory council; there's my full disclosure statement.) I've been a fan of his since I saw Ian Fleming Presents Steve Gallin in Nobody Dies Forever back in 1998; he hasn't had a new play in NYC in about five years, so it's great to see Rearviewmirror, presented by Reverie Productions at 59e59.
Rearviewmirror is about three twentysomethings, Penn, Agatha, and Inez. Penn is an aspiring screenwriter with control issues and a thing for Orthodox Jewish women. Inez is an Orthodox Jewish woman who has escaped from an unsatisfactory marriage (she and Penn do eventually hook up). Agatha is an impressionable recent college grad who, in the course of the play's narrative, falls in love with Israel and shocks her parents by suddenly becoming an observant Jew; falls in love with Penn and starts espousing his deeply-held opinions about 1970s films; and falls in love with a sort of cult led by a charismatic musician named Michael Dionne. This last obsession is the one that becomes transforming, not just for Agatha but for all three characters: their lives and fates intersect at a concert given by Dionne at a stadium in Brooklyn.
The play uses intersecting monologues to spin its plot. The writing is vivid, detailed, and exciting; here's a passage in which Agatha talks about her first exposure to the music of Michael Dionne:
Onstage was a guy with a guitar, and he had this weird, feminine quality—not swishy or anything, I mean, he was definitely a GUY—but he had this long, sari-type thing on, and flowers around his neck. And the room was filled with men, and women, and I remember thinking to myself, they all want to fuck this guy.
The music was—hard to describe, really—kind of a folk—rock—acoustic—electric...James Taylor meets Nirvana meets Elliott Smith meets...Def Leppard? I don't know. It's got an edge to it, a definite angry...snarl, lulling, yet...provoking. Yet comforting.
The characters, especially the two women, are vital, and their stories are absorbing. Rearviewmirror is inspired by The Bacchae, and one of its main ideas is that pop culture heroes like Francis Ford Coppola (for Penn) or Michael Dionne (for Agatha) seem to have supplanted the gods of yesteryear. All three characters in this play are seeking a Thing to grab onto and believe in, and I think Winick is saddened by how flimsy these Things turn out to be.
Rearviewmirror's monologue structure poses a challenge for the director, one that I'm not sure Carl Forsman has overcome in this production: the piece has virtually no action, and the occasional staged interactions among the characters (usually between Penn and Agatha) feel distracting, while some recorded music and ambient noise during the climactic scene at the stadium only served to make it hard for me to hear the actors. Colin D. Young's expert lighting gives us all the information we need to follow the throughline.
Audrey Lynn Weston is appealing and sympathetic as Agatha, while Mark Alhadeff creates as three-dimensional a Penn as the play will allow (the play is mostly about his perspective, though it's not necessarily about him). Sarah Nina Hayon may not be ideally cast as Inez, especially when she reveals near the end that she's not even 25 years old (the actress appears and behaves substantially older than that and than her castmates).
Rearviewmirror, at once intimate and epic, offers deep insight into its playwright's outlook on the world, and Winick's writing is so sharp and smart that it's absolutely worth a hearing. I hope more than anything else that seeing it up on its feet will inspire its author to give us more new plays, and soon.