Off Broadway Reviews
Art dealing with natural disasters tends to focus on the phenomenon itself and the ways in which it affects the characters in the story. There's usually a lot of planning and preparation, endurance, and eventual survival or mourning. But most of the time this art chooses to leave audience members with a smidge of hope; not so in David Thigpen's Hurricane Party a deliciously nihilistic take on disaster art opening on September 11 at the Cherry Lane Theatre in the West Village.
Thigpen lays out his plot in sensual strokes, we first meet Dana (Kevin Kane) and Macon (Sayra Player) as they make love. The intimacy of the moment almost enough to makes us want to look away: should we be even witnessing something so precious? As the lovers unwind, we learn they're married, but not to each other. Dana's wife is Caroline (Booker Garrett) who is a few months pregnant and spends her time daydreaming about everything she'll get to do with her "new best friend," as she calls her unborn child. Macon's husband is the volatile Todd (Michael Abbott Jr.) who also happens to be Dana's best friend, and suspects his wife has taken a lover.
We also learn there's a hurricane coming their way, and the four friends have decided the best way to make it through the storm is by having a party and drinking the night away. Thigpen's ingeniously lurid setup makes one think of the play as a cross between Body Heat and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, in which the secrets that haunt four people will come to the surface when they find themselves trapped in a house.
But unlike Honey and Nick in Albee's iconic play, the guests at Macon and Todd's would put their lives in peril by leaving the party before the storm passes, leading to yet another perfectly used flourish in Thigpen's storytelling: the ticking bomb structure. As the guests arrive to the "hurricane party," and we know so many of their secrets, the play becomes a chamber thriller, as we wonder how long till things start going south?
What Thigpen does so well is balancing the bigger aspects of the play (i.e. his Chekhov's hurricane although a gun also makes an appearance) with the more intimate moments. We eavesdrop on loving conversations between Macon and Dana, we come to learn of Dana's promising future and how he threw it all away, and when two unexpected guests (played by Toni Lachelle Pollitt and Lacy Marie Meyer) show up at the party, we see the effect that two strangers have when they break into a familiar structure.
Despite its high entertainment value, because truly there isn't a dull moment in Hurricane Party, the play is also touching and haunting in the most unexpected of ways. A lot of attention has been put on Macon, who as played by Player becomes a femme fatale of sorts, who is surprised to learn she yields such power. Other characters comment on how Macon looks great for her age, and Todd at one point utters something along the lines of "how could someone not want my wife, have you seen her?" and we come to understand that Macon is perhaps a woman who was left no choice but to be a wife. We don't hear other characters talk about her smarts in the same way they do Dana's. It breaks one's heart when Macon finally has the realization she's more than she's been told, but the world around her seems to be falling apart.
And that is what the play leaves us with, in what's becoming a more uncertain world with each passing day, and we truly can't predict what natural, or political, disaster will strike next, when exactly do we grant ourselves the permission to live and seek pleasure? When is it too late to start anew? The storm raging in Hurricane Party has got nothing on the existential dilemma that accompanies us as we leave the theater afterwards.