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The Green Dragon

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The playwright's notes for The Green Dragon indicate that the author, Jonathan Calindas, wrote the play in an attempt to make sense out of the events of September 11 last year. Does the show, now playing at Raw Space and billing itself as a "modern fable," succeed? In some ways, but not wholly.

The Green Dragon is primarily an allegory told through a series of nine scenes, all but the last containing only one character. Each of the characters describes a different aspect of the event. In the show's prologue, for example, The Girl (Daniela Tedesco) describes for the audience in painful detail the destruction of the city's castle by the green dragon twenty years earlier. In the next scene, The Girlfriend (Schoen Smith) searches fruitlessly for her missing boyfriend. And so on.

One problem is the heavy disparity between what the characters are talking about and what we're able to observe about them. All of them are quite clearly modern people (the program insists the show is taking place here and now), and the exact nature of the connection between the "fairy tale" quality of castles and dragons is dealt with tangentially at best.

Another problem exists in the structuring of the scenes themselves. The characters come across best when they are voicing more of their interior thoughts or speaking directly to the audience. On more than one occasion, though, a character will engage in conversation with an unseen second party onstage, which is troublesome enough, but when the real people try to interact with the unseen characters, the result - not to the detriment of the actors, who are all fine - is not very effective.

This may be a fault of either the writing or the direction, but Calindas is responsible for both. For the most part, his actors move around only a little, but it is not unusual for the scene changes to take so long that they dampen whatever momentum he was able to create in the scene before. Since the set consists of little more than a platform, two chairs, and a long draping piece of fabric, this is particularly troublesome.

Irrespective of the show's other problems, though, Calindas's script eventually asserts itself, and it is for his dramatic machinations, especially in the second half of the show, that Calindas should be commended. Buried beneath the waves of detail and frequent one-sided conversations is a fascinating story, placed clearly in front you, yet only revealed a piece at a time.

The construction of these moments is much stronger looking back on them than experiencing them the first time, and he gives you plenty of food for thought, reflection, and possibly a return visit. The last few minutes of The Green Dragon are quite well written and genuinely moving and thought-provoking, making you wish all the more that they had been present from the very start.

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The Green Dragon
Through March 17
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes with no intermission
Raw Space: Theatre A, 529 West 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues
Schedule and Tickets: Ticket Central (212) 279-4200