Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of The Age of Innocence
Director Sasha Bratt has staged this play extremely well and he is fortunate to have found two actors who are quite right for the central roles. Carl Howell and Cecelia Riddett, as David and Maria, are able to reveal the many layers of their characters and together they make a fascinating duo. Sebastian Buczyk, as the formidable, Polish-speaking character Zenon, who helps Maria with various chores, does very well in this small part.
The play begins with David arriving in Poland, with his laptop computer, to stay with Maria, a distant cousin whom he barely knows, in order to try to break through his writer's block. Not to give too much more of the plot away, but Maria is a Holocaust survivor and, while David hardly wants anything to do with her, she is starving for some kind of family connection. The Revisionist is performed without an intermission and is made up of a series of short scenes, that are sometimes amusing and at other times truly heartbreaking. We learn a lot about the two lead characters, not all of it attractive.
Carl Howell is quite good as David, and the audience initially sides with him. While David's steady succession of sullen quips to Maria (only some of which she really understands) don't always get the laughter you would expect, Howell shines more in the dramatic moments and he isn't afraid to reveal some of the cruel nature inherent in the character. David is not always a nice person and this gifted actor digs deep into the darker moments in the play.
Just as good is Cecelia Riddett as the Polish-speaking Maria, with some command of the English language, who spends the play trying to connect with her second cousin. Riddett gives a heartrending performance as Maria's desperate need for a familiar relationship is not always met. This is not to say there aren't lighter moments in The Revisionist, especially the scenes in which Maria and David share a bottle of vodka, but this play is more of a drama, and a tough and sometimes unpleasant one, at that.
Director Sasha Bratt embraces all of the emotions in the play and works extremely well with his designers. Scenic designer Emily Nichols provides a good-looking representation of Maria's small flat. The costumes by Kate Bunce are entirely appropriate and Marcus Abbott's lighting design is expert, managing to highlight the various playing areas on the set.
The Revisionist, at Playhouse on Park can, at times, be a bitter pill to take, with a finale (not to be revealed here) that is hard to watch, but this production also finds the humor in Jesse Eisenberg's play. A good deal of the success of the production comes from the fine performances of Cecelia Riddett and Carl Howell. The arc of their relationship is an unexpected and sometimes bruising one, but it ultimately provides good theatre.
The Revisionist, through April 29, 2018, at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Rd., West Hartford CT. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office 860-523-5900.