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Don't Look Back

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 14, 2022

Jeff Rubino and Cynthia Bastidas
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
There are many ways to present a Biblical story to a modern theater audience. You could write a musical (Two By Two or Act I of The Apple Tree). Or, if you are inordinately creative, you might be able to pull off a production like The Flea Theater's The Mysteries from a few years back, a sweeping retelling of the entirety of the Bible in a single production that involved 48 playwrights and just as many actors.

Then again, you could decide to go small, which is what Adam Kraar has done with his play Don't Look Back, a Voyage Theater Company production now in performance at HERE, under the direction of the company's founding artistic director Wayne Maugans. With four actors and David Esler's minimal design (a collapsed pile of canvas and some cinder blocks strewn on the otherwise bare floor), the play is a 90-minute meditation on the Old Testament story of Lot, who escapes just ahead of God's destruction of his former home city of Sodom, with a few belongings, his daughters, and more famously, his wife, she of "pillar of salt" fame.

We first meet up with the family as they are making their way up and over a difficult mountain pass, moving as quickly as they can so as to avoid being swept up in the imminent onslaught of fire and brimstone. Lot (Jeff Rubino) accepts it on faith that they will find their way to the land of their promised refuge, the city of Zoar, directed there by two angels whom he had protected from a mob back in Sodom. His wife Edith (Cynthia Bastidas) and their teenage daughters Annie (Masha King) and Molly (Lina Silver) are rather more skeptical. "If you were really a man," says Edith, "you would've thought of your poor daughters instead of 'angels' who smell like feta cheese!"

And so it goes, for much of the play, the story of refugees who are finding it increasingly difficult to hang on to the sense of hope that drove them from their home to seek a better life. What lies ahead, really, and what have they given up in abandoning the familiar in exchange for a vague promise?

There is little more to Don't Look Back than this. Although there are moments of suspense thanks to some effective lighting, sound, and projection design (by, respectively, Paul Bartlett, Fan Zhang, and Tuânminh A Đỗ), the dialog becomes repetitive and increasingly philosophic and abstract, ending in some future place where Edith, permanently encased, a statue of salt, muses on her ultimate defiance, unhumbled and still looking back and remembering.

Don't Look Back
Through July 3, 2022
Voyage Theater Company
HERE Mainstage, 145 Sixth Avenue
Tickets online and current performance schedule: