The Eternal Husband
nytheatre.com review by Nathaniel Kressen
August 13, 2011
The Eternal Husband is a well-executed noir drama, staged simply and with utmost confidence by writer/director Nat Cassidy. Adapted from a novella by Dostoevsky, Cassidy weaves a psychological thriller that at times verges on the cerebral but never loses its audience. The dialogue is smart, touching on interesting philosophies, and the cast's performances are right on point. One might say it is too straightforward a show for FringeNYC, a festival known for presenting cross-disciplinary work. Yet, there is something to be said for realism that offers a compelling story and a thoroughly thought-out dramatization. Certainly, among the shows I've seen thus far in this year's festival, The Eternal Husband offers the most enjoyable night of theater.
The story follows a detective known simply as Younger Man. As a heat wave strikes his nondescript city, he is overcome by an anxiety he thought he had buried long ago. A mysterious Older Man who's been following him arrives at his office, and identifies himself as an old friend. Younger Man suddenly places him as the husband of a married woman with whom he had an affair years before. Older Man informs him that she has recently died, which sends Younger Man into a complicated mix of grief, regret, and guilt. Memories and hallucinations take hold, and our protagonist embarks on a quest to discover the truth behind his former lover's death, and the daughter they might or might not have had together.
The material is startlingly well structured. At one point, Cassidy explores a dense Russian philosophy called Nichevo (the belief in nothingness) only to undercut it with self-referential humor the next. In this manner, he shows himself capable of engaging his audience on multiple levels simultaneously, all the while furthering the plot.
A stellar cast aids immeasurably in the production's success. Arthur Aulisi is effortlessly dynamic as Younger Man, combining the stylized masculinity of the noir genre with the slow descent of a man coming unhinged. Charles E. Gerber is perfectly cast as Older Man, keeping us guessing at his true objective until the very end of the show. Elyse Mirto draws mileage from only limited stage time as Natalya, each man's former love. And Karen Sternberg rounds out the cast in top form as Claudia, the detective's assistant and one-time girlfriend, bringing a sense of urgency and comic relief to each of her scenes.
The Eternal Husband is certainly worth catching at this year's FringeNYC, but, more importantly, it bodes well for productions to come. While taking his audience on an exciting journey with this piece, Nat Cassidy inadvertently shows himself to be a theatermaker with considerably more to offer. I cannot wait for his next creation, which I hope will feature a concept of his own design, rather than an adaptation of someone else's.