Reviewed by Ilana Novick
In Jean Genet’s Deathwatch (translated by David Ruskin), a Lord of the Flies in a French prison play, Maurice (Stephanie Smith) and LeFranc (Katherine MacDonald), are forced to share a prison cell with Green Eyes (Carissa Cordes), a notorious killer. They are not so much scared of him, as they are self-conscious that their own crimes pale in comparison. On a bare stage, with only a cot for furniture, the play revolves around their competition to show who is the strongest. The prisoners change allegiances more often than middle school girls competing for school popularity, a metaphor drawn by the choice to have these male characters portrayed by women. The boyish Maurice flashes almost tender expressions of longing towards Green Eyes, adding a subtle undercurrent of homoeroticism. LeFranc demonstrates resoluteness as he refuses to cry even as Green Eyes belittles his “minor” crimes (minor, at least, in comparison to the murder of a defenseless girl). MacDonald’s stiff upper lip and wincing eyes are a model of toughness in the face of taunting: one almost feels sorry for Maurice. This ends up playing to Deathwatch’s strength, as now the prisoners reveal an even greater truth about the world outside. It’s a bleak play, with little in the way of humor to balance the ever present competition. However, both the gender twist and the conviction of the actors makes the bleakness bearable. It’s not pleasant, but it still rings true. Even in the small space of a cell, the urge to compete is ever present.
Deathwatch (75 minutes; no intermission)
The Cherry Pit (155 Bank Street)
Tickets available at www.fringenyc.org or at Fringe Central, 54 Crosby Street ($15)
Performances August 25-26 at 10pm and 3:15pm, and August 28-29, at 10pm and 12:45pm
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.