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The Appointment

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

Do you like puzzles? If so, The Appointment, the new play by Bob Clyman which opened at the Hudson Bay Theatre last night, provides more than its fair share. There are two problems with this puzzle, however; a few pieces are missing, and the picture revealed at the end is one that's difficult to care about.

The pieces, by themselves, are ordinary; John Wallace (Dan Cordle), is having an affair with his personal assistant Jessica (Rohana Kenin), which his wife (Kit Flannigan) confronts him about not long before his boss, Victor (Robert Arcaro), comes over for dinner. John and Victor concoct a plot to cover up John's embezzlement by firing one of their coworkers.

The lightheartedness of the script up until this point suggests The Appointment will be a smart urban comedy. But when John is accosted by a man (Joey Collins) in the street, and the encounter results in another man's accidental death, the play begins taking strange turns. Most of the comedy disappears, and the play becomes steeped in the metaphysical as Clyman and his characters begin dealing with the nature of obligation, life, and death in the modern world.

Unfortunately, the play also becomes almost too confusing to follow. It is unclear if the device of having actors play multiple roles was provided by Clyman, or by the director, Wendy Liscow, but it is the only thing that makes the rest of the play in any way clear. Flannigan plays the wife of the murdered man as well, Kenin plays another potential love interest later, and so on.

This device, in addition to Liscow's clever direction on Jeremy Doucette's surprisingly adaptable set, always makes the general idea of the play evident, even if the specifics are lost. But the problems in Clyman's script frequently intrude, with the relationships between the characters uncomfortable in their seeming unfamiliarity and Clyman's use of long speeches and flowing language particularly jarring.

The actors do what they can to help the play make sense, but never seem at easy with their dialogue. Cordle is almost never offstage, but plays John with such a cold detachment, he often seems to vanish in plain sight. Bella, played by Pamela Paul, provides the show with a sort of narration, and is intriguing until an overly lengthy scene with John in the second act that, though intended to answer questions about what's going on, still leaves a heavy fog of uncertainty. Of the rest, Kenin and Flannigan stand out, and provide the most interesting characterizations, though Collins and Arcaro are hampered by playing so many additional characters, and they begin to grate early in the second act.

It is clear that Clyman has a number of interesting ideas, and if they had been fleshed out more, his statements about our behavior toward others and what our lives mean in the final analysis might have made a particularly fascinating play. But for all the questions The Appointment asks, the answers provided are as insufficient for the audience as they are for John.

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Abingdon Theatre Company
The Appointment
by Bob Clyman
Directed by Wendy Liscow
Hudson Guild Theatre
441 West 26th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues
Through May 20
Tickets (212) 206-1515