Reviewed by Adrienne Urbanski
For many New Yorkers, the war in Iraq has not directly affected our personal lives, and has rather existed as something distant and removed to us, a problem being played out in a far off country. Access Theater’s current production of No Entrance attempts to change this common view, taking the war to a personal level and shedding light on the pain and plight of the soldiers. However, the five scenes are uneven--some not even taking place in the real world--and what starts as something personal threatens to become just another story.
The work opens with James pacing around as his wife Natalie and her sister discuss their fear and unease at the news that he will soon be shipped off to Iraq to serve his country. “You know I can hear you,” he says, clenching his hands in frustration. Natalie is angry with James's calm acceptance and lack of terror, but James soothes her, promising that all will be well, that their life will pick up exactly from where they left it, that serving in the war will ultimately change little in their lives. As Natalie, Emily Loeb is radiant, fully embodying the sadness and frustration of her character, sometimes eclipsing the other characters in a scene.
The play’s most appealing scene consists of Natalie listlessly sitting in an airport with no purpose for being there other than escaping the reality of her own life. While sitting in the waiting area she meets William, a Midwestern farm boy waiting to pick up his grandparents from their flight home. Young, charmingly eccentric William is due to be sent to Iraq and he expresses his fear to Natalie, who tries, not too convincingly, to tell him that everything will be all right. Natalie then refuses to let William introduce himself, not wanting to become personally connected to someone who could very well turn up dead.
While the aforementioned scenes are strong, well-written works on their own, the other three scenes do not fully interlock with them. There is a sense of linear time to the vignettes, but they lack a clear sense of narrative. Each scene is successful in being emotionally evocative, but some run on too long or require rewrites, as when the soldiers are stuck in purgatory, seeking forgiveness for their sins, waiting for their names to be called so they can make it through heaven’s gate (hence the ominous title).
Despite the need for some nips and tucks, Alec Gutherz's script shows a lot of promise, particularly in his ability to create compelling characters and stories. Thankfully, there's a deeply gifted cast capable of delivering such emotionally charged work without falling back on bravado. Perhaps they'll find that entrance after all.
No Entrance (1 hr 30 min, no intermission)
Access Theater (380 Broadway, fourth floor)
Runs Through November 2nd