[full review published in Time Out New York February 27, 2023.]

L-R Jessica Hecht, Ben Edelman (as Max), Zane Pais (on guitar). Photograph: Joan Marcus

From 2012 through 2016, playwright Sarah Ruhl exchanged letters with her student Max Ritvo, which she published in 2018 as Letters from Max. Now she has adapted that book, along with poems by the two of them, into a theatrical rumination on friendship, death and how to live. We are told in the play’s first minutes that the college-age Max has Ewing’s sarcoma, and that he endured treatments of chemotherapy in his teen years. It’s no mystery where this story is headed, but that doesn’t make the journey less affecting.

In this ritualistic pas-de-deux, Jessica Hecht dances the Ruhl part with two different partners: Ben Edelman and Zane Pais play Max on alternating nights. The actor who is not playing Max at a given performance provides original musical accompaniment instead; Edelman plays piano with his back to the audience, whereas Pais plays guitar engagingly at the edges of the stage. (The two actors’ distinct sets of musical skills, Ruhl notes in the program, were part of what motivated the unusual double casting.) 


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