theater (reviews)

review: through the yellow hour

Through the Yellow Hour

Written and directed by Adam Rapp
Featuring Hani Furstenberg, Danielle Slavick, Alok Tewari
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place
September 27, 2012 (opening) — October 28, 2012
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
September 23, 2012 and October 1, 2012

  • “You want to learn about courage, work with sick children. Adults tend to get petty … children are all grace.”

(L-R) Alok Tewari, Hani Fustenberg.

Providing visceral experiences so intense I took advantage of a second opportunity to see it before finalizing this review, Through the Yellow Hour is a plastic shrouded, bombed out, raw and risky hulk of a play. Oh sure there are uneven moments (was that a visual call to Christina’s World late in the play, in silence, with our heroine on the floor, and what’s the story with the goofy headgear evoking The Prisoner? ) and final plot points played out in a bathtub that seem a bit too tidy. And yet there are moments of raw fear in almost total darkness that rival any that I’ve experienced in recent memory. The words and direction of playwright Adam Rapp and the solid performances by the set of actors are largely responsible for these emotions. And large thanks much also go to an inspired set design by Adromache Chalfant, lighting by Keith Parham, and an insistent insidious and sometimes melodiously beautiful sound design by Christian Frederickson.

Ellen (Hani Furstenberg) is a nurse and a survivor of an invasion or some other calamitous series of events in the near future.  Holed up in her apartment in the Lower East Side she both fends off and welcomes a series of characters who all are making do or taking advantage in an Apocalyptic world.  An incoherent, perhaps crazed street character (Brian Mendes) invades and is dispatched in the first minutes of the play, setting our theatrical stakes clearly at life and death, but life-taking with reason.  A young mother Maude (Danielle Slavick) arrives to deliver something for which Ellen has yearned. A late-night visit from wounded Hakim (Alok Tewari) provides a harrowing narration in half light — my return visit was audience left close to the stage, all the better to appreciate this particular sequence.  One character’s late night exit into the apartment house hallway on the other side of Ellen’s apartment door is as harrowing a stage moment as any I recently have experienced.  And the rhythm of the language, of Ellen’s persistent curious inquiries that finally meet their match in a young Darius (Vladimir Versailles), give us hope for the future would they will help to create.

Enchanting and terrifying stage pictures occasionally syncopated by distant bombs and seagulls appearing in the early morning armistice “yellow hour.”  Exasperating and thrilling plot points, and dream sequences to frustrate or inspire. This is Adam Rapp’s newest theatrical world and it is sensational.

© Martha Wade Steketee (October 2, 2012)

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