Search This Site

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review- In The Daylight (Vital Theatre Company)

The Fab Marquee review by Karen Tortora-Lee.

In The Daylight (by Tony Glazer, directed by John Gould Rubin) is an ironic title, or a conclusive one, or perhaps even a hopeful one.  Because the last thing you get with this play is one shred of hopeful daylight; this is as noir a plot as any written by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, right down to the rapid-fire dialogue and the "it was a dark and stormy night" setting. Rather than any daylight what you do get is dark shadows, deep secrets, harsh verbal sparring, some gun play, a mysterious urn full of ashes smack in the middle of the living room... one half expects Barbara Stanwyck to come slinking in at any moment asking Fred MacMurray to help her with the clasp on her ankle bracelet. Except for a missing Blackberry which sets off an unfortunate chain of events, this whole story could be set in 1940.

Joe Urla, Concetta Tomei, Sharon Maguire
Photo by: Gili Getz

When we first meet prodigal son Martin Feingold (Joseph Urla) he's back after a six year absence driven back home by the notion that his mother Elizabeth (Concetta Tomei) may be dying, and driven back into the house, literally by a raging storm that leaves him soaked and leaves the house whim to every crack of lightening and every shudder of thunder so realistic that the audience cowered in half dread of being drenched as well.  Not that this house seems to give much respite; for one thing it's crooked as hell, the whole set listing steeply to the right in a not-so-subtle way of informing you that this is no cozy childhood hug Martin is returning to.  The home is also completely white, stark, devoid of anything save a bottle of scotch, an ottoman and the urn; several doors lead into the room, and a staircase moves away from it; overall this is not a welcoming place.  The next nails-on-chalkboard piece of the welcome wagon is pinchy sister Jessica (Sharon Maguire) who immediately launches into a bitchy volley with her brother which proves that they've never really gotten along, or if they did, it was a long time ago.

When mother Elizabeth comes on the scene (Concetta Tomei) she adds the top note of this dysfunctional family perfume; kind words are scarce in this house but there's no end to the verbal jibes, the button pushing, the backhanded complements, the insults disguised as harsher insults.  The only fun they have seems to be quoting movie lines to each other, and even those are the repellent ones, you won't find a Breakfast Club quote being thrown around in this home.  Obviously something very bad happened here six years ago, but only the silent, ghostly Dr. William Feingold (Jay Patterson), wandering in and out of his home and replaying scenes before his death give us any clue as to the disturbing things which may have happened before Martin ran off to write his book and gain fame at (some would say) his family's expense.  

Jay Patterson, Joe Urla, Ashley Austin Morris
photo by Gili Getz

Soon enough Martin discovers his Blackberry is missing but don't fret, it's returned soon enough.  Into this house of horrors, blown in by the storm, carrying Martin's Blackberry, is a little wisp of southern belle, Charlotte Fontaine (Ashley Austin Morris) the fan who sat next to him on the plane, a dear young girl with a fan-sized crush on Martin and a need to know everything about him.  When she begins to poke around too much the whole fabrication comes crashing down and we find out exactly what horrifying events lead to the Feingold family's complete destruction.  Not only was nothing as it seemed, it was far, far worse.

Much of the success of this play lies with the fantastic scenic design created by Christopher Barreca, the lighting design by Thom Weaver, and the sound design by Elizabeth Rhodes.  In a play of such darkness, ambiance can make or break the mood, and these three fabulous artists do an amazing job of creating an entire world where these characters can  live out their crazy lives.  I doubt their story would have been as dramatic in a split level colonial.

Some of the pacing of the story was problematic for me; it took me a while to warm up to this cold brother and sister who so easily could pick up where they left off despite years of being apart, let alone after being torn apart by such a tragedy.  True, some families mask their hurt and pain with sarcasm and quick, nervous chatter, but I still felt they might have needed a little more stillness in the beginning before diving headlong into the neurosis of their relationship.

By contrast, Ashley Austin Morris' Charlotte is like a breath of fresh air, as I'm sure she is meant to be, when we first meet her she is quite a character without being a caricature which is a fine line that many actresses can't always walk along.   And later, during the second act when her character deepens and her motives and reasons become more clear Ms. Morris is able to follow through with her voice and not veer from the character she has created.  She was wonderful to watch.

In The Daylight is filled with stunningly dramatic moments that leave the audience gulping (if not gasping).  The plot contains enough surprises and twists that the audience does not see coming, which is always enjoyable, and watching the veteran Concetta Tomei perform brilliantly alongside new talents like Ms. Morris is a great treat.  While there were a few bumps in the story, overall this is a very enjoyable, if gritty, night of theatre that will leave you a bit nostalgic for the days of Noir.

Vital Theatre Company presents
In The Daylight
September 8-October 11, 2009 (Opening, Sept 20th)
McGinn/Cathale Theatre

For tickets and more information, visit

McGinn/Cathale Theatre | 2162 Broadway, 4th Floor | Manhattan.

1 comment:

Dianna said...

I agree with your points; some of the actors really needed to slow down and take their time with each other at certain moments. It's one thing to have rapid tete a tete, it's another to just rush through the lines to the point where I can't understand what you're saying and I'm in the third row.

The set, as you mentioned, was FANTASTIC. It was like some Escher nightmare...indeed, that might have been what inspired it.

Overall, though, it was an enjoyable evening of theatre...I'm happy we got to see it.