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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Prayer For My Enemy

Also see Fred's review of Whistle Down the Wind

Prayer For My Enemy
John Procaccino and
Daniel Zaitchik

Prayer For My Enemy, experiencing the second portion of its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre through October 14th (Seattle's Intiman Theatre introduced the play for a month this past summer), is a pensive drama which delves into the psyches of a group of individuals. Craig Lucas' writing challenges each theatergoer to interpret and ponder while the emotive, talented cast performs.  Prayer for My Enemy has been billed as an Iraq War play. That phrase, while relevant to the script, is not fully accurate.

Billy Noone (Daniel Zaitchik) is about to leave for Iraq. He has a chance encounter, at a gas station, with a boyhood friend, shaggy-haired Tad Voelkl (James McMenamin). Tad and Billy had, at one point in time, forged a strong connection. Tad is invited to gather with Billy's family. That unit includes the father, alcoholic Austin (John Procaccino), a Vietnam Veteran who is obsessed with the New York Yankees and is filled with fury. His wife Karen (Cynthia Lauren Tewes) tends to either diffuse or refuse to acknowledge the dysfunction around and about her. Billy's blonde sister Marianne (Katie Rose Clarke) is now a single mother who has an autistic child. Tad and Marianne fall for one another and soon she is pregnant once again.

There's another character who seems disconnected and distanced from the through line of the play. Dolores Endler (Julie Boyd) assumes responsibility for her aged, ill mother. Bright and perceptive, Delores speaks directly to those who watch the play. Her dialogue - the internal words Lucas penned for her - is profound and disturbing. It is not until well into this 90-minute piece that she interfaces with everyone else in the cast.

The playwright speaks about drug and alcohol addiction, homosexuality,  futility of war, urban and suburban lifestyle, friendship, parenting, aging ... and I've certainly neglected something. There is text and subtext, obvious and hidden meaning, implication and inference to be made. It's quite stimulating and the writing is highly insightful.

Surely, character drives the plot within Prayer for My Enemy. Lucas' sharp, intriguing thoughts prod his characters. Fortunately, the level of performance at Long Wharf's Stage II (a rectangular space) is individually and collectively inspiring.

McMenamin's Tad is drawn with sympathetic strokes. Procaccino infuses Austin with disconcerting rage. Boyd, working on her own as Dolores, the woman with monologues and lively self-perception, is excellent throughout.

Prayer For My Enemy
Katie Rose Clarke
Perhaps the evening's star of stars is Katie Rose Clark as Marianne. The actress worked with Bartlett Sher, the fine director of the current play, as she made her Broadway debut in The Light in the Piazza. Marianne married too early and soon divorced, finding herself back in her parents' home. She is pretty, youthful, distressed and distraught. Lucas (who wrote the book for The Light in the Piazza) creates a complex character, and Clark provides a multi-layered performance. From the moment she sees Tad, it is evident she wishes to be attached. It's interesting to watch Clark during the sequence where she and McMenamin are seated on a couch. Her eyes lead the impulse to jump him, kiss him. What follows is natural enough. The character is not simple and requires a performer's deft awareness. Clark, playing an already fractured young woman, succeeds. This is a superb ensemble cast and another theatergoer watching this play will, with good reason, favor another player.

The actors move across the stage rather than backward and forward while a black rear wall serves as backdrop. Set pieces, with assistance from actors or stagehands, slide easily on and off.

Prayer for My Enemy raises questions and does not necessarily provide answers. Lucas' themes are understated and his language, by design one suspects, is clipped. I would submit lack of closure is the point. The process of exploration is oftentimes filled with fragments -  with stops and starts. Lucas, contemplating life and lives, leaves us to further ruminate.

Prayer for My Enemycontinues at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through October 14th. For ticket and schedule information, visit www.longwharf.org or call (203) 787-4282.


Photos: T. Charles Erickson


Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol



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