nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 12, 2011
Ever wonder if life is meaningless? Many existentialist philosophers and authors have pondered this eternal question for hours on end and clearly so has playwright Gregory Cioffi. In his new play The Interim, Cioffi expounds on all the angst and depression our overbearing freedoms cause as our lives fly by us in an absurd parade of events over which we seem to have no control. And that is the crux of Cioffi’s query: do we indeed have free will or does fate have everything laid out for us?
The Interim is set in a “universal observation lounge” which is a place between worlds—somewhere between life and death—in which a pair of spirits named Kairos and Chronon reside. They decide to take corporeal form and appear to a so-depressed-he’s-constantly-crying man named Albert and they subsequently abduct him into their world. Once he settles into the place, Albert begins to look back on his life and reflect on its meaning (or meaninglessness) until he does something that actually surprises his jaded, seen-it-all captures.
Cioffi certainly has a lot to say about the human condition and free will and his journey here has meaning and significance, but his methods of conveying these ideas to us fall a little short of compelling. The writing comes across as a bit tiresome in that it never speaks to the audience. It is so subjective and inwardly focused that I found it difficult to follow at times. Cioffi’s notions of absurdity, guilt and regret are astute but in chasing these ideas he fails to communicate any of them to his audience in terms or actions that are clear. It is as if someone opened a book of existential philosophy and started reading it to us without emotion, motivation or transformation and called it a play.
Director Daniel Capalbo, Jr. does not add anything to the production that makes it any more compelling. He does not wrench any emotion from the cast or elevate the style to a vision. The stage is virtually empty. There are few light changes and no music. Costume designer Tara Siciliano’s flowing spirit gowns certainly work for Kairos and Chronon as does Albert’s baggy jammies, but other than that there is little in the way of production value.
The cast does their best. Adam Ginsberg plays Albert, for the most part, on a single level. We see him crying at the top of the show and then he hums along on the verge of tears for the rest. He also occasionally belt out inexplicable screams of desperation that seem to come out of nowhere. Still, Ginsberg shows a great deal of commitment to the role. Kairos and Chronon are played by Cioffi and Reanna Armellino respectively. The two of them take on the demeanor of robots, devoid of emotions in every line they speak, and while this becomes exasperating they are at least consistent.
The concepts and contemplations brought to light in The Interim are certainly worth discussing but if the producers here want to reach an audience they first need to learn to speak to one.