THIRD FLOOR, SECOND DOOR ON THE RIGHT
nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
This production is a collaborative effort from members of a famous
family. Amy Arbus initiated the idea, Doon Arbus wrote the play,
Marieclare Costello Arbus and Arin Arbus are assisted by Jake
Hirzel in directing, and Allan Arbus stars.
August 15, 2003
The opening tableaus and music set the mood perfectly—of a lonely old man, living in a small, dingy room, waiting. Pools of light (Charles Foster created the excellent lighting) catch him in his space; musing, restless, moving aimlessly. The Man, as he is called, was once the constant companion, alter ego and soul mate of another, very famous man who has just died. The old man broke off with him suddenly twelve years ago, and the media is out hunting up the stories, digging in the closets of the very famous man's past. Arbus' character is ambivalent about being interviewed, perhaps driven by desire for company more than anything else.
A young female reporter finally arrives, professionally dressed, with a tape recorder, a bag full of pads and notebooks, pencils etc., and they begin the interview.
The play stumbles along from here, taking a compelling and complex script that looks at fame and what it is to be sucked in close, moth-like, to its brilliant light . The language is rhythmic and builds the story beautifully, but Allan Arbus, a very talented actor (widely known as Dr. Sidney Freedman on M.A.S.H.) is under-rehearsed and often had to call for lines. Since the play is a long monologue and the reporter mostly witness, Arbus has trouble keeping an emotional flow.
The reporter, supposedly there to get a story, seems unsure of what she's doing, taping or writing. The recorder is ill-placed on the floor where all it might pick up is the sound of shoe traffic. She plays with a pencil and flips pages of pads and notebooks, but writes nothing as she listens to The Man tell the painful, wonderful, often humorous story of this relationship, how it transformed his life and perhaps ultimately broke him. There are surprises throughout.
The production may be in chrysalis form, needing fine-tuning, sharpening and maturing. I still want to recommend it—it has much room for improvement and the writing is the highpoint of the evening.