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Theatre Review by Howard Miller - May 22, 2018

Lisa Diveney and Paul Rattray
Photo by Mark Douet

Tremor, an hour-long two-character play by Brad Birch, opening tonight as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters, starts off promisingly with an air of mystery and tension that brings to mind the sort of menace-filled work that Harold Pinter might have produced. A woman, Sophie (Lisa Diveney), shows up unannounced at the home of a former boyfriend, Tom (Paul Rattray), now a married man with a child. They have been completely out of touch for years. What does she want?

For sixty minutes, the two circle one another continuously around Hayley Grindle's ring-shaped set design, like a pair of evenly matched boxers sizing each other up. Sophie does a lot of hemming and hawing and making small talk, while Tom tries his best to behave cordially in a situation that makes him most uncomfortable. In the confines of the intimate theater space, their constant dance should build a sense of pending danger for the audience. Unfortunately, the payoff is a long time coming, and when it does arrive, it lands with a thud at the end of a lot of lengthy speeches leading to faulty conclusions, its Pinteresque affectations long since dissipated.

Without going into details that would be spoilers, the story as it emerges turns out to have very little to do with the fact that Sophie and Tom were once a couple. Four years earlier, they went through an experience that upended their lives. While Tom has moved away and is working to rebuild his life, Sophie remains trapped within the aftershock of that experience. She has come with lots of unanswered questions for Tom, or, more likely, for us.

Ultimately, neither of the characters is developed much, not through the performances nor David Mercatali's direction, which keeps them emotionally detached from the proceedings. It appears that the playwright wants to use the forum to talk about socio-political issues that are as pressing in Britain as they are here in the U.S. But in doing so, he conflates too many separate ideas that do not support the play's conclusions or hold up to even minimal analysis. Instead, disconnected ideas fly around of the sort we experience as Twitter feed, sound bites, and the fare of talk radio. As an audience, we are saddled with the dissatisfaction of knowing we have been presented with differing versions offered by two unreliable witnesses with diametrically opposing worldviews. As if we don't get enough of that on a daily basis!

Through June 10
Theater C at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral

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