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.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

If Truth Be Known

If truth be told, If Truth Be Known leaves the audience perpetually wanting more, from the hasty start to the abrupt conclusion. There is, however, historical information and perspective to be gained from the many issues discussed - including race, class, and gender.

(Left to right): Lydia Gaston and Constance Boardman
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If Truth be Known concerns the struggles and tensions inherent in the relationship between Max, an Asian-American woman, and Philip, "the man of her dreams" (who also happens to be a Vietnam vet). This and many other details are outlined by a clunky exposition that is as preoccupied with giving us the historically accurate news report as the fictional story. Not having lived through this period myself, I find the aftermath of Vietnam quite interesting. It's a good thing that Judi Komaki wrote in so much history, because the romantic relationship that would otherwise be the crux of the play lacks chemistry: they don't even appear to be close friends.

Christine Simpson's direction doesn't exactly spice up the drama of this relationship. The intimate moments, particularly the ones in bed, are far from loving or romantic: they are laughable. Not only are they poorly staged, but they are poorly conceived. Actions don't flow naturally, and the actors take a methodical, almost robotic approach to their movements. Embrace for three seconds, kiss for five seconds, take off shirt, etc. The palpable awkwardness is unwarranted in a relationship that is supposedly ongoing for more than a year.

The other relationships (mother/daughter and aunt/niece) are similarly awkward. The situations of the story are not backed up by the interactions between the characters. For example, the aunt and niece are described as being like "sisters," but their interactions are like blind dates and have little familiarity. As a result, the emotions are superficial and the dialogue only advances the plot, not the characters. If this play were more Brechtian, the lack of motivation might be more effective, but here, they are just talking heads, tackling debates without a real point of view. Alternatively, if the focus was on one or two topics, instead of the four or five briefly brought up here, the point of view of the playwright would have been more clearly conveyed.

Despite these shortcomings and an ending that is both hasty and confusing, there are some notable successes. The performances from the cast of four are all quite competent. The female lead, played by Lydia Gaston, was especially captivating, although she benefits from playing the part most closely modeled after the playwright (and therefore the most three dimensional). The pacing also works: there's no intermission, so it zooms by without causing much weariness or impatience. (Not that there aren't moments that could use a dramatic pause or two.)

All in all, the play is well-researched but suffers from a great deal of incongruity and is at times plainly unnatural. If Truth Be Known succeeds in making you think, but there isn't enough focus to delve deep enough to sustain your thoughts after the house lights come up.
If Truth Be Known
The ArcLight
152 West 71st
(between Broadway an Columbus)
now through June 24
Wednesdays - Saturdays at 8PM
Sunday at 3PM
Tickets $20
Students and Seniors $15
212-868-4444 or

No comments: