nytheatre.com review by Travis Richards
May 7, 2009
refuge: -noun. 1) shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc.: to take refuge from a storm.
We all have a place where we run when the world seems to be too much. From the bird watcher running to Central Park after a hard day at work to the sexually frustrated husband going to the red light district on a Saturday, everyone is looking for the same thing: peace. Refuge, written by Jessica Goldberg, is a story of four young people looking for shelter from the various storms life has thrown at them.
The backdrop of the play is a rundown lower-middle-class home, the remnants of the shelter left to three siblings that have been abandoned by their parents. Amy (played by Jenna Harder), the eldest, becomes the impromptu parent to her two siblings: Nat (played by RJ Passetti), who has a mental disability, and Becca (played by Linda Johnson) who is the cliched rebellious 16-year-old. The family is struggling to remain functional when Amy brings home a stranger, Sam (played by Sergey Nagorny), who injects himself into this atypical family.
Each character is looking for refuge in his or her own way. Becca, yearning for guidance and stability, looks to drugs and partying. Nat, looking for purpose, flirts with religion. Amy, wanting her youth back, looks to the arms of strangers. Sam, wanting a home, looks to family.
Overall the production is ok. I actually looked the word "ok" up in the thesaurus thinking there was a better word to describe my experience, but no, "ok" aptly describes it. The production isn't terribly moving nor is it mundane. It is ok.
The acting varies. Passetti's characterization of Nat is well done. His maintained focus of being, his energy, and his ability to hear the other actors on the stage is key to creating a variety of real moments in the play. The other actors in the play vacillate between "being" the part and "acting" the part. This has to do, I think, with not always listening to the other actors and lethargy in scenes that seem to necessitate a large amount of energy. It's difficult to discern whether this is attributable to the actors or the director. The director (Bryan Radtke) does well with the overall flow of the play. The set design and use of space are good. The play transitions from dance club, to bedroom, to kitchen seamlessly. However, ultimately dead spots in plays are the responsibility of the director to address.
While I was not completely moved by the production, the play has a good message to convey. For whatever reason, people look to religion, drugs, the road, exercise, money, ambition, art, etc., the list is endless, for refuge. What this play is attempting to suggest is that maybe we needn't look as far as we thought to find it.