reviews

Tomorrow In The Battle

August 13 — 31, 2014photospress release

Albany Times Union

'Tomorrow in the Battle' bold, brilliant at Stageworks/Hudson
By Steve Barnes, senior writer
August 21, 2014

HUDSON — Stageworks/Hudson is an invaluable part of the local theater scene. The company can be counted on to blast through convention and challenge audiences with exciting, unusual works.

This year, its late-summer production, "Tomorrow in the Battle," by the British dramatist Kieron Barry, is a restaging of the play's world premiere, presented at Stageworks two years ago. Both productions were directed by Laura Margolis, the company's artistic director.

The play is as bracing as a slap, as rewarding as it is unexpected. Barry's dialogue is brilliant, imbuing the sounds of everyday speech with rich poetic imagery. Considering a failing dinner-party entrée, one character says, "The chicken's looking at me with nothing but sarcasm." Another dryly notes that she's been following a teenager's Facebook page and its account of his "increasingly contentious chairmanship of the guitar club." A heart surgeon describes opening a chest for a transplant and facing a "splashy velvet bedlam."

The funny and evocative and frank lines come fast and in abundance in "Tomorrow in the Battle," which is structured as three people telling overlapping stories. The characters don't address each other directly, and they don't interact in any conventional sense; they physically touch one another on just two or three occasions. Randall Parsons' minimalist set takes full advantage of Stageworks' unusually deep stage by running three criss-crossing catwalks of different heights from back to front. Asides from taller, rectangular forms that double as benches, that's all there is on the stage, putting the actors in an abstract space that the language, and occasional projections and sound, transform into locations as varied as a home, an opera house, a hotel room, a parliamentary committee and the New York Stock Exchange.

Simon (Christopher Kelly) is the aforementioned surgeon, who specializes in pediatric cases. He's married to Anna (Danielle Skraastad, the only returning cast member from the original production), a nuclear-weapons specialist facing an investigation, but begins a fling with Jennifer (Olivia Gilliatt), a younger woman who's part of a highly successful investment firm. Their affair is one of the most vivid and convincing depictions I've yet seen of deranging erotic connection, which is an achievement, given how little the characters directly interact.

As individual pressures mount on each person, the tension and stakes have the palpable grip of real life, and the actors never hit a false note. Once the play gets its teeth in your guts, it never lets go. Thinking about it afterward, the ending seems obvious and a little pat, but in the moment, it's a shock, as startling and effective and final as the slam of a door.

sbarnes@timesunion.com — 518-454-5489 — @Tablehopping — http://facebook.com/SteveBarnesFoodCritic

The Berkshire Edge

'Tomorrow in the Battle,' must-see world premiere revival at Stageworks
By Bob Goepfert

August 22, 2014

With the play "Tomorrow in the Battle," Stageworks in Hudson, N.Y., has coined a new term — "World Premiere Revival."

Stageworks produced Kieron Barry's three-person play two years ago and being appalled that the work, which artistic director Laura Margolis calls a "masterpiece," failed to get a second production they decided to remount the play themselves.

You have to make up your own mind as to whether the masterpiece label fits, but be sure of this — "Tomorrow in the Battle" is memorable, penetrating theater that will make you think and feel.

Too, you will likely agree with Stageworks that such a fine theater piece should not be neglected. Indeed, if the play doesn't find life outside of Hudson, I'd gladly see it a third time.

Part of the problem with marketing the play might be that its seemingly simple plot line cannot adequately prepare you for the complexities that are revealed and shared. On the surface "Tomorrow in the Battle" is about a man, his wife and his mistress, all of whom seem to live privileged lives.

Making matters tougher to explain is it's played by characters each telling their stories in direct address to the audience. Rarely do they interact with each other or even acknowledge the others presence on stage. This is often an off-putting device but Barry uses it to tell compelling stories. Indeed, if you ever you wanted to understand what a priest must feel when hearing confession this is your opportunity.

It all takes place in Great Britain. Simon (Christopher Kelly) is a brilliant surgeon who is preparing to do a heart transplant on a 5-year-old boy. His wife Anna (Danielle Skraastad) is a public servant specializing in nuclear deterrents for the Ministry of Defense. Jennifer (Olivia Gilliatt) is the public face for a financier whose success is bringing him international attention.

Each of the three is trapped by delusion. Beneath their surface success their lives are dominated by sexual fantasies. After a chance meeting at an opera, Simon begins an affair with Jennifer. Soon his obsession with their intimate moments of love-making dominates his imagination and his comfortable compartmentalized life becomes frazzled.

Anna has uncovered a secret at work that could cost her nation billions of dollars and place the country at risk. However, if made public, it makes her a whistle-blower and costs her her job. The frustration of her choice pales next to her sexual frustrations. Simon neglects her and she vividly fantasizes about one of her husband's friends.

The young, beautiful and sexually experienced Jennifer surprises herself by her attraction to and need for Simon. What's not clear is whether her attraction is to him or to the illusion of being a public part of his life. Jennifer's curse is her life's role is being a trophy companion.

When Jennifer's business partner's secrets are exposed and her lover rejects her, she must face the reality of her life. So must Simon when he operates on the boy after drinking too much. Anna faces her moment of truth when she testifies before a financial committee about the cost of the weapon system.

In the same way their private delusions clash with reality when the three meet at a dinner party at the home of Anna and Simon.

Exquisitely directed by Laura Margolis and penetratingly lit by Deena Pewtherer, the production is played on simple clear platforms (designed by Randall Parsons). Like the characters in the play, they can see each other but they pass without connecting.

The performances are brilliant and passionate. They use Barry's poetic images for maximum effect and are masterful in signaling unspoken emotions.

"Tomorrow in the Battle" demonstrates that even the most controlled person has longings, commonly called needs, that can dominate and destroy a life. Who knows? It may even be a masterpiece.

Stageworks/Hudson's mainstage season is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Additional major support provided by The Shubert Foundation, Ernest O. Reaugh Foundation, City of Hudson, Columbia County Tourism, Bank of Greene County Foundation, Empire State Appraisal Consultants, Hudson River Bank & Trust Company Foundation, Jewish Communal Trust, Kinderhook Bank, Stewart's Shops, Trustco Bank, Ulster Savings Bank, United Way, Wood Hill Veterinary and individual donors.
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