Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New House Under Construction (59E59)

BOTTOM LINE: If the actors are on, this play can be one heck of an emotional ride. If not (and if a few other things don't click), it might miss the punch.

After 15 years, 2 couples in their 40’s are reunited during the construction of a new house. Old rivalries, secrets and choices made long ago come to the surface and the audience is brought into a story about love, lust and the “what-ifs” in life.

After the first few scenes of New House Under Construction I thought this play was going to be about adults with sex issues – this can be a fine line between quality creative work and uninspiring indulgence. Fortunately the story turns away from just exploring sexual desires as the audience begins to discover more about the characters in an interesting way. The story then turns again in a completely unexpected way to share something I really appreciated in the end.

New House was written and directed by Alan Hruska, an accomplished lawyer turned writer-director. His writing offers a keen insight into human truths and character. The many scenes made for an interesting story, although a few scenes drop a bomb at the last possible moment, only to be edited too quickly. The theatrical experimentation with the space and storytelling was interesting and for the most part worked, although one scene that diverted from the structure of the staging and story didn’t thrill me too much and seemed too theatrical for my taste if not superfluous.

I caught an early preview of this show on a Saturday afternoon, so I can understand that this play is still getting its legs. In the performance I caught, the actors took a few scenes to get warmed up and I just wasn’t buying the stakes or the relationships that the material was demanding. The actors are obviously talented, although some moments weren’t quite there for me. Again, as the material sets in and the show officially opens, we’ll see how the piece comes together.

There were also a lot of little things that detracted from the enjoyment of the play and needed a bit more craft. Some were technical effects, some were written in the play itself and some were moments that are being ironed out. It took away from my engagement in the play at times. At this point, a lot falls on the actors to comfortably own the material and deliver truthful, emotionally invested scenes. There are a lot of aspects that are quite good, don’t get me wrong, it’s just going to have to click the whole way through for this to become the engaging and surprising piece of theater it can be.

(New House Under Construction plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park, through January 4th. Show times are Tuesday through Friday at 8:15pm, Saturday at 2:15pm and 8:15pm, and Sunday at 3:15pm. Tickets are $35...to purchase, visit ticketcentral.com or call 212.279.4200. Visit www.59E59.com for more info.)

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