The Crow Mill
nytheatre.com review by Maura Kelley
August 21, 2009
The Crow Mill is a drama that deals with issues of past childhood trauma, Alzheimer's in parents, and serious marital relationship issues. At the top of the show we see geneticist Nathan(Quentin Mare) and Anna (Margot White), a not-yet psychotherapist, engaged in romantic foreplay, setting up the fact after flirtatious prodding that neither wants to have children. The play moves forwards in time in three parts: the second part begins with the now married couple living with Nathan's mother, engaged in conflict because Anna has changed her opinion on wanting children. The final part takes place approximately nine months later.
Early on, I was impressed with Mare's expert skills in handling props, as well as the naturalistic quality he had of making the space feel like his own apartment. This later proved problematic because while Mare was busy with his stage business there was a disconnected feeling between him and White. This element for long periods of time starts to feel static. However, this could have been a choice—possibly because we quickly learn that this married couple cannot move forward in their life without Nathan coming to terms with an emotionally traumatic event from his childhood. White works hard at trying to connect and create chemistry with Mare. She succeeds by giving us her best when she is the most vulnerable.
Enlivening the show throughout is Nathan's Mother, Mia (Geraldine Librandi), delighting us when she lists the inconveniences that come with being an Alzheimer's sufferer. Librandi artfully acts the final revealing event of the play.
It's possible that this show may have been under-rehearsed, which could have contributed to a lack of dramatic tension. Mare more than once had to call for "line" during the performance. Rewrites are known to happen late in the game when working on original plays.
The well-conceived set by Mark Bloom includes detailed door and window frames, a few furniture pieces, and abundant set dressing and makes the space look like a lived-in apartment. Director Eli Gonda seamlessly weaves scenes into scenes, sometimes using a convention of having one character remain in their position at the end of a scene, the lights change, and then that character from the same position starts the next scene. It worked quite well.
I feel that playwright Andrew Unterberg has crafted this play structurally well, but there are some ingredients that I found highly unlikely. One question I had in particular: Would a professional therapist really do therapy on her husband? The play did surprise me as I did not foresee the dramatic twist occurring at the end of the play. Only looking back did I notice the clues.