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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Looking for something to talk about? Silence, a contemporary comedy set in the unflinchingly serious Dark Ages, offers plenty of solid observations on heathens, religious woes, sexual ambiguity, and tyranny. And for the first two acts of the production, it does so with panache and charm; not that the final act's bad, it's just not as amusing.

Photo/Jim Baldassare.

(Chosen as one of The New Theater Corps'
FIVE FAVORITES for 2/2/07)
Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

The best part about Silence is that nobody ever shuts up. Whether speaking in a scene or narrating a series of compressed events, the show hurtles forward, filled with a melange of amusing topics and a series of surprising twists. Playwright Moira Buffini writes and "mans" a tight ship (that's a joke on the gender reversals of the play), the only trouble is that by the third act, she's strangled most of the comedy from this play, leaving us dangling in the Dark Ages without a light. But up until that point, you can think of this as an erudite and medieval Road Trip: a cast of five entertaining characters, each with their own secret baggage, flee Christian Canterbury for heathen Cumbria, crossing the open road to do so. A sixth character, a comic and childish tyrant king (like Richard Lewis in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, only darker) pursues them, intent on reclaiming what they have stolen from him.

I'm sorry. The best part about Silence are these characters, without whom there would hardly be a need to shut up. There's an agoraphobic priest, torn between his fears of a godless sky and his growing love for a stern but kind maid, servant to a blessed woman who is cursed with fits of madness, and who shows respect and compassion only to the young boy she is wed to, a boy who is not so much a man as something else entirely, and who has fallen in love with their barbarian escort, a man who has taken enough magic mushrooms to believe he can mindspeak with his companions. Phew! One can hardly shut up about them.

Director Suzanne Agins has managed to compress all this far more succinctly than I, although to be fair, she's got two hours, and Moira Buffini's script is far from complicated. When she uses poetic expressions, they are often debated or appear as confessional narratives, ala The Real World, devoid of subtext or secrecy. To wit, the two manage to build suspense even with the whole second act confined to a wagon (a marvelous feat of physicality), and an unexpected dream sequence and surprisingly dramatic "mushroom" scene keep the pacing from being predictable.

The show continues to build, and the climax is as striking as the plot (though not as satisfying). Because of all this action, the jolting transitions between our travelers and their pursuing king aren't so bad, and though the musical selections clash with the show, they do manage to elicit chuckles from the crowd. Silence isn't golden, but it's a clever play that's worth talking about.

Roundtable Ensemble presents Silence
American Theater of Actors (314 West 54th Street)
Tickets (212-352-3101): $18.00
Performances: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday @ 8; Sunday @ 3

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