BOTTOM LINE: A brave piece of quality theater that walks a very fine line.
Dawn is a mature-themed story dealing with some very real issues that most adults have dealt with in some form along the way. Sexuality, alcoholism, family issues and painful truths are the name of the game for this story. These topics are nothing new and many times an inexperienced playwright or filmmaker may throw these elements into a story just for shock value or indulgence. Playwright Thomas Bradshaw does manage to shock the audience, but he does so with skillful writing and an understanding of the subject matter he is taking on in today’s era. This is edgy stuff, but not too over the top though it pushes the audience’s own comfort zones and understanding of human character.
That’s a lot of what this play seems to be about: our weaknesses as humans and the emotional struggles we experience along the way. It’s part of what makes this play intriguing to watch. You honestly don’t really know where this story is going to go or how these characters are going to end up.
A big part of the success to this story has to do with quality of the acting. This is a very experienced group of actors. Gerry Bamman, Kate Benson, Laura Esterman, Drew Hildebrand, Jenny Seastone Stern, and Irene Walsh all bring a lot of skill and humanity to the roles. Watching these actors work as an ensemble and as individuals is really engaging. Although there were some moments that didn’t grab me, overall I felt for these characters...and this was essential for this piece of theater to work. Why? One big reason is because there is no set, only the stage of the Flea Theatre itself. The actors, props, wardrobe and story do the work. This reminds me of how, when you strip it down, great acting and storytelling can be a hundred times more engaging than a million dollar set or a film with razzle-dazzle special effects.
The Flea Theater itself is a quite a nice space as well. Hats off to the “Bats," the crew and understudies, who help run the shows and the theater. They were very welcoming from the start of the show and kept the show moving smoothly through all of the scene changes and beats of the play. I also enjoyed their introduction and “turn off your cellphone” bit to start the show. It makes the experience of off-off-Broadway theater very welcoming, intimate, and sets the stage nicely for the ride. I’d be interested in seeing future productions at this space.
As for this show, I’d recommend it for the acting, direction and challenging content. Don’t take your parents to this show and I’d take a date only if you’re very comfortable with the relationship. This is heavy stuff and the story is going is take you to some uncomfortable places, but in the end Dawn is a satisfying journey that will leave you affected by the ride.
(Dawn plays at The Flea Theatre, 41 White Street between Church and Broadway. Show times are Friday, Nov. 28th and Saturday, Nov. 29th at 9pm, and Wednesday, Dec. 3rd through Saturday, Dec. 6th at 7pm. Tickets are $18 each. To purchase tickets, click here. For more info, visit theflea.org.)