According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

FRINGE 2006 (Encore): Broken Hands

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Broken Hands is a fantastic drama that uses boxing as a jumping-off point to explore family ties. Skipping theatrically between past and present, the show pulls no punches as it builds in intensity to a painfully good climax.

Photo Courtesy/Neilson Barnard

Shrouded in a darkness, a man with bandages around his hands stands on a bridge, peering off into the dark and unforgiving waters of the Thames. His brother, a well-groomed shyster, climbs up to join him, holding onto a gun as if for dear life. He appears out of the shadows like a ghost, and fades back into them like a ghost, which is for the best, for he is a ghost, and the man on the bridge, a boxer, is haunted. Moby Pomerance's striking drama, Broken Hands, is haunting, too: Cory Grant and Eric Miller have such a profound and nuanced relationship that we hate to see anything bad happen to it. And though Pomerance puts the end of the play at the beginning, he handles the theatrical jumps between past and present so effortlessly that one forgets, at times, where it's all going. The credit doesn't belong to anyone in particular: the actors make us forget that we're watching a play, the smooth writing helps the actors forget that they're acting, and Marc Weitz's smooth direction helps everybody forget that there's a world outside the theater. Jay Ryan also deserves credit for his elegant palette of lighting (and his efficiently simple one-piece set): after all, the play only won the Fringe awards for Best Actor (Grant) and Outstanding Playwriting (which it shares with The Catharsis of Pathos), and everybody involved in this show deserves a round of applause.

Broken Hands uses metaphor, action, great storytelling, and clear dialogue (with spot-on British accents) to relate the story of two brothers torn apart by Mick's inability to communicate (he's retarded) and George's inability to stop dreaming. Neither plays to a stereotype: Mick is childish, but he's also a boxer and is hence far from powerless and George, if anything, is more like the Tennessee Williams archetype of a man lost to his own inevitable machinations. Both are equal parts charm and menace, though the latter always comes as a surprise (which speaks well of the play's construction).

Performed without intermission, the show slowly builds to a powerful and cinematic climax, the moment at which Mick's past can no longer protect him from the present. To use the oh-so-applicable pun, this final scene pulls no punches, and the effect can't help but hit you like a ton of bricks. Here is a man who has suffered so much adversity, who works so hard just to communicate, only to be denied the thing he loves by a man who cares nothing so un-valuable as family. These brothers, betrayed by the world and each other, manage to calm each other from opposite ends of the bridge that is the set, and they reach out across it, but their love does know a boundary--death, and that is a ghost that cannot be shaken free.

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