The Shattering of the Golden Pane needs to be more shatter, less gold: too much of Wilhelm's script is gilded with repetition that endlessly delays both actions and development. Even the few poignant moments--like Verta's frantic attempts to save parasite-infested fish--are related as numbing anecdotes, and until Caleb's appearance late into the second act, the show gives us nothing greater than a flimsy ghost to keep our attention.
Le Wilhelm's play, The Shattering of the Golden Pane, captures the insecurities and procrastinations of first love, in all of its obsessions, but this is not a good thing for audiences. There is nothing less satisfying than watching two characters talk about all the things they've seen elsewhere: even if Mark A. Kinch and Kristin Carter were better actors, that would only postpone the tedium, not belay it. Even worse, Wilhelm has a third character, the ghost of a nightclub singer (Kirsten Walsh), who appears behind a theatrically opaque wall to opine (musically or otherwise) about true love and its (apparently often) deadly consequences.
The "action," so to speak, takes place in an abandoned church, and the dim lighting does justice to the detritus of stone and paper across the stage. The players are David (Kinch), a Goth with tattoos, spiked collar, and black fingernails to prove it, and Verta (Carter), a tremulous, quivering punk with a penchant for alcohol and baking. But David makes it very clear off the start that he hasn't brought Verta to his secret lair to seduce her; instead, it's because they both share an affectation for Caleb (Kevin Perri), a man so beautiful that simply watching him work out (through the gym's shimmering golden pane) brings tears to these ageless peeping toms. And so the play meanders, occasionally waxing upon some romantically apt lines, but more often than not stumbling through repetition, whining, and other adolescent annoyances.
The Shattering of the Golden Pane lasts an unforgivable two acts, turning from creepy romance to creepier revenge fantasy, but it never really resolves the ghost story, nor does it give a real arc to either of its central characters. Verta, even when propelled to action, never seems comfortable in her own skin, and David mopes around hunched over or curled into himself with all the charm of a Gothic Jerry O'Connell. The part of the show that picks up, and where director Gregg David Shore wakes from his coma, is when the commanding Caleb shows up, at first through a series of letters, and finally, revealingly so, in person. Here, the quick cuts and passages of time are efficiently crisp, as opposed to earlier jumps that simply seem like run-on sentences.
If Wilhelm could simply cut the repetitious scenes, remove the ghost, and focus on the actual conflict, he'd have a much better show. In other words: more shattering, less golden pane.
59E59 Theaters (Studio C; 59 East 59th Street)
Tickets (212-279-4200): $18.00
Performances: 8/28-9/1 @ 8:30 | 9/1 @ 2:30 | 9/2 @ 3:30
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