nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
July 12, 2012
Disquiet, devised and directed by Anna Brenner, is a sixty minute collaboration by the acting ensemble and part of the undergroundzero festival going on downtown right now. It is a slice-of-life vignette, focusing on what it is sometimes like to live in a shared space, a small New York apartment building, with a diverse group of neighbors who may or may not get along.
We get a colorful dose of current stereotypes and age old concerns. There is a yuppie couple—an investment banker, his uber-fit wife and two kids; a single older woman who works in publishing and has an inventive and practical way of dealing with her daily New York Times habit, and may be a lesbian; her young niece who comes to visit while she figures out what to do with her life; and a mildly eccentric, slightly high-strung single woman who has a philosophical nature and probably a trust fund or a divorce settlement to pay the bills.
I was born in New York, lived most of my life here and have served on a co-op board, so none of this is new to me, nor is it surprising or out of the ordinary. The yuppies, Jonathan (Nate Grams) and Nell (Ellsa Matula), create a lot of garbage and don't have much spirit of community. Meryl (Cass Collins), is the old guard, a thirty-plus-year tenant and seasoned New Yorker, who has the misfortune of being laid off not long after we meet her. Her niece Josie (Maria McConville), just beginning her adult life, provides diplomatic efforts when the sparks start to fly. Cedra (Megan Hill), practices meditation and ponderously gives forth on her opinions and fears.
What is excellent about the piece is its poetic and rhythmic composition. Each of these characters is given just enough action and dialogue to define them and highlight the comedy and tragedy of their type and situation. All of the players do justice to the material and move gracefully in the small space, resourcefully and cleverly laid out by Blanca Añón. Lighting by Yi Zhao and sound design by Brian Wenner justly compliment the style and tone of the action.
The program notes say the piece is primarily inspired by Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. I'm not familiar enough with either of these works to see parallels, so I may be missing that extra level of delight that comes from making deeper connections, but I enjoyed the experience all the same. Entertaining, funny and well crafted; a worthwhile evening of theater.