nytheatre.com review by Seth Duerr
Catalan writer Sergi Belbel's Caresses is a stark and
enigmatic cross-stitching of eleven extremely upsetting views of
August 15, 2003
Belbel offers spectacularly interesting and three-dimensional characters, and places them in extreme situations that range from the erotic to the macabre and everything in between. The structure is fascinating, with each of the scenes depicting two characters, one of whom gets to go into the next scene, so that every actor is in two scenes of the play (with the extra character from the first scene arriving in the final scene). This works, as Belbel is questioning not only the duplicity of people's relationships, but also of the individual people themselves, as they are slowly revealed for what they are in each of their second scenes.
Director Adam Eisenstein lives up to the challenge of presenting the world these characters live in, as well as their relationships. However, Eisenstein seems to have difficulty with the author's taut language, and subsequently has problems integrating it into the character's mouths.
What saves this production, and why, ultimately, you should go see it, are the actors. To highlight a few of the performers and their respective work: Barbara Bruno soulfully presents a woman tragically attached to the past with an unfortunate inability to reconnect to a time that was happier; Al Choy masterfully paints a portrait of a homeless man who lives to cause other people agony and is seemingly untouched by anything emotionally until his prized possession is stolen and he lets out everything he's been holding inside; and Crystal Williamson gives an utterly heartbreaking performance in the final scene as a woman who is forced to steal money from her son (played with variety and surprise by Christopher Burris) and comes to terms with both her son and herself upon the discovery of her theft.
Scott Ashley's lighting design is specific and well engineered, and Stage Manager Rosela Moseng and her crew make transitions with astounding efficiency. John London has written a lucid translation of Belbel's play.