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Off Broadway Reviews


Theatre Review by David Hurst - June 6, 2017

Rebecca Hall
Photo by Ahron R Foster

Primarily a British theatre director, Clare Lizzimore is also a budding playwright. Her latest work, Animal, now receiving its New York premiere in a devastating production at the Atlantic Theater Company, is a showcase for the gifted British actress Rebecca Hall and she doesn't disappoint. Last seen on-stage in New York in Lyndsey Turner's superb 2013-14 Roundabout production of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal, the role of Rachel in Animal is the kind of part actresses dream of and Hall's bravura performance is a thing of wonder. But discussing Lizzimore's play in a review is tricky because there's a "reveal" near the end which is essential to the piece and disclosing it would ruin the experience of seeing the play if it were to be given away in advance. So I'll tread lightly.

Suffice it to say Rachel is a young woman who is slowing losing her mind in front of us. In scenes with her devoted husband Tom (beautifully played by Hall's real-life husband Morgan Spector who she meet during Machinal), her therapist Stephen (a terrific Greg Keller), Tom's disabled mother for whom Rachel is the primary caregiver (superbly played by Kristin Griffith) and a mysterious man, Dan, who could be a potential lover (a spot-on David Pegram), we watch Rachel struggle with her very existence on a day-to-day and situation-to-situation basis. Hall's expressive eyes and subtle facial expressions are a window into the torment being endured by the woman who pulls us into her world of anxiety, fear and terror.

It's a beautifully realized production with deft direction by Gene Taylor Upchurch, gorgeous lighting courtesy of Bradley King and a spare set design from Rachel Hauck. But with all that said, and despite the cast's riveting performances, it must be said that Animal may not be everyone's cup of tea. It is relentlessly grim and deeply unsettling but, clearly, that's what Lizzimore and Upchurch intended. Serious theatregoers will appreciate the craft but it left this writer wondering for whom Animal is specifically intended.

Through July 2
Atlantic Stage 2, 330 West 16 Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix

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