Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Eight (PS 122)

By Zak
• fresh • provocative • strong performances
• engaging • solid debut from a young playwright

BOTTOM LINE: An unexpectedly enjoyable, poignant portrait of twenty-something life in the age of apathy.

Eight, a new play by Ella Hickson, makes it’s American debut at PS 122 after a celebrated run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Formed around a survey that asked twenty-somethings what defined their generation, Hickson responds to their almost unanimous response of “apathy,” with a collection of monologues in which damaged young people find small rays of hope in a world constantly hurling cynicism in their paths.

When you enter the small but hip theatre space you are greeted with eight actors standing in front of you staring into space. I tried to guess the story behind all of them and I was dead wrong on every account. From a woman dressed in preppy white tennis attire who turns out to be a working class hooker, to a muscle-bound dude in a tank top in jeans who secretly makes friends with corpses in a funeral home, no one is what they seem in this very enjoyable night at the theatre. Hickson creates characters that defy convention and expectation to reveal beautiful, damaged souls that ultimately want happiness, success, and acceptance in the emotional wasteland of modern Britain.

The seven young European actors, accompanied by one American, deliver some of the most solid acting from a complete ensemble that I have seen in a long time. There is not one cast member who does not shine. Don’t let their ages fool you, these actors’ performances kick ass and take names as they talk directly to the audience for about 15 minutes each. Most notably among these is Holly McLay who is stupendous as a working class woman who wants to provide her children with a perfect Christmas. She accepts that she will never fully rise above her economic station in life, so she is resigned to provide her family with one perfect Christmas day. She comes to realize that, “Plenty of people will show them what is real, she must give them magic.” It’s rare to find a young actress that displays such emotional depth in her performance as McLay.

Simon Ginty is utterly compelling as a young boy who goes to French boarding school to find himself and along the way finds the love of a mysterious older French woman. It’s a tale about what happens when idols fall, or how the pursuit of love is sometimes ultimately better that obtaining it. He learns that “loves makes a man” and that “he is nothing…because she is everything.” Ginty quickly and deftly moves from an awkward school boy who discovers the harsh, rarely talked about realities of life. His performance is truly first rate. I can only hope that this is not the last time American audiences will be graced with these two young actors' gifts. Every other performance is equally impressive and truly should not be missed.

It is hard to believe that this is the first play from the cracker jack new playwright, Hickson. I hope that she continues to thrive and find her voice. It’s really thrilling to find a young playwright that kind of hits it out of the park with her first attempt. I can’t wait to see what she brings us next. Hopefully American audiences will be able to enjoy her work for years to come with support of other producers like Carol Tambor who graciously bring exciting, cutting edge European work to American soil. If you want to see some fresh and exciting performances from an up and coming playwright, Eight, is the show for you. Seriously, go see this show.

(Eight performs at PS 122, 150 First Avenue, as a part of the COIL Festival. The show has been Extended through January 25th. Show times are Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets $25 and are available by calling Theatremania at (212)-352-3101 or online at http://www.theatermania.com/new-york/shows/eight_150477/.)

1 comment:

Sonia. said...

Wow, a fantastic review! I can't wait to go and see Eight. I saw it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year so I am very intrigued to see how Ella has adapted it for American audiences.