Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Annapurna: Love May Not Die, But It Sure Can Kill You
Annapurna is the interrupted love story of the alcoholic Ulysses, a truly gifted American poet, and Emma, an ambitious Barnard girl with artistic ambitions of her own. Emma fell in love with and married Ulysses because he was "the real thing." After ten years of marriage, there came a night so horrific that Emma took their five year old son Sammy, and left. They have not seen Ulysses in twenty years.
Today, after having learned that Ulysses has a terminal illness and is living hermit-like in a trailer in an inhospitable, oppressively hot desert area near the Colorado Rockies, Emma appears at his door.
The ties that bind Ulysses and Emma are deep and abiding. Ulysses is a selfish, irresponsible alcoholic who heedlessly has ruined his own life along with the lives of his wife and son. Emma will always love him unconditionally. Over the course of an hour and a half, humorously and painfully Ulysses and Emma reconnect with each other and find their own selves.
It is not so much author Sharr White's cautionary message about the profound danger of committing oneself to an all-consuming passion that sticks and makes Annapurna so compelling. What does, is the ability of White, along with his cast and director, to enable us to understand and share Emma's passion, and share her joy in their relationship. We know that Ulysses is a poor excuse for a human being. We even see him gadding about with a towel across his loins while his plug ugly butt hangs out, and he gasps for breath with the aid of a sketchy oxygen tank precariously perched in a backpack that he is wearing. Still, Ulysses delights us as we listen to the language and wit of his repartee with Emma, and share the glow of their emotional intimacy. White has provided the quality dialogue for Emma and Ulysses that makes you feel that you are listening in on intelligent people whom you would enjoy having as friends
Gina Bonati embodies the exuberantly rough-hewn, intellectual urban girl (who would be a perfect fit for Barnard) in wearying early winter. Bonati smoothly unveils Emma's increasing happiness as she and Ulysses draw closer. Peter Galman is thoroughly delightful as he learns to again accept the warmth of human relationships.
Annapurna is a legendary, treacherous mountain in the Himalayas with a magnetic attraction for climbers which has a large rate of fatalities.
SuzAnne Barabas' insightful direction suggests that she knows her characters well. Jessica Parks provides a realistic open-walled set of a complex and crowded jumble of a park trailer.
Sharr White impresses as a young writer to be watched as he fills in the details of his well worn structure with felicitous language, thought provoking ideas, compelling characters, and a darn good play.
In January, another play by Sharr White, The Other Place, will open on Broadway at the Samuel Friedman Theatre (MTC) following a successful production at MCC Theater.
Annapurna continues performances (Evenings: Thursday - Saturday 8 pm; Matinees: Saturday 3 pm; Sunday 2 pm) through November 18, 2012, at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740; box office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.
Annapurna by Sharr White; directed by SuzAnne Barabas