The Death of Evie Avery
nytheatre.com review by Montserrat Mendez
August 15, 2009
The Death of Evie Avery by Sara Jeanne Asselin fires off with an enticing monologue, delivered by the title character's husband as he removes his work clothes and piles them upon his sleeping wife. It is a brilliant visual cue that immediately lets us in on the theme of the play.
This promising opening scene and the ones that immediately follow suggest that Death will develop into an ironic comedy-drama about one woman's search for self-fulfillment in a world that frowns upon choosing more than one role in life. Artist, Mother, Lover, and Wife are things that do not mix in this world, and so to choose one you must decline or abandon the other.
The play seems to move in that direction for its first 20 minutes; and it has the ingredients to do so: a completely competent cast, led by the neurotically charming Amelia Randolph Campbell, top-notch directing by Melissa Firlit, and something akin to a technical wet dream, with a sparse, sleek scenic design by Christopher Heilman and an impressive lighting design by Scott Needham.
Asselin also proves herself a competent playwright. She creates a superbly specific world for Evie, one in which both her real life and her imaginary one survive quite comfortably with one another. Her "survey" scene is full of delicious subtext and another, where Evie swims while her husband and future lover discuss how much she is changing, is exquisite.
But too often these excellent scenes are interspersed with others that fall flat, for example, a conversation about how a sub-par artist or a non-artist's life would change if someone suddenly paid a million dollars for their work. Here, the topic is only superficially explored, and has been a subject for stage conversations before. Nothing new was added to the conversation.
There are also no real revelations made about Evie's passion for Art. Why must she break free of her husband and her children and be an artist? We do learn that her painting skills are quite capable of seducing even the most successful of artists. Still, art as an aphrodisiac seems like a shallow message to ultimately send.
The middle part of the play, before the awakening of Evie occurs, seems to slow to a crawl; it's as if the writer is just buying time until the scene of Evie's awakening takes place. This scene is absolutely brilliant, as her husband takes a survey that says as much about Evie as it does about him.
Ultimately as the play progressed I grew more distant from it. I appreciated all the elements separately. It was impressively directed and the talented cast gave it their all, but it never coalesces nor delivers on its opening promise.