Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

The Plot
Yale Repertory Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule


Harris Yulin and Mia Katigbak
Photo by Joan Marcus
Will Eno's The Plot, in an affecting world premiere production at Yale Repertory Theatre through December 21st, is, at first, a quiet play. Later it becomes a more meditative piece. The dialogue then traverses more agitating territory through its growing complexity. Benefitting from Sarah Karl's enormously realistic set which magnifies the confines of a cemetery and Eno's true-to-life words and phrases, five actors address realities and, finally, survival.

Tim (Stephen Barker Turner) is a capitalistic guy who hopes to replace an entire graveyard with a cold storage factory. In the midst of his own marital separation, he is sleeping with Donna (Jennifer Mudge), another realtor who is trying to get her own life organized.

It so happens that Righty (Harris Yulin), who is slow moving and perhaps dealing with something like Alzheimer's, is determined to get himself buried in Briarwood Cemetery and he has a handsome and large gravestone at the ready. His wife Joanne (Mia Katigbak) is sound of mind and articulate. She is loyal to her husband and hoping that the struggle through old age (for both of them) is not amplified.

Also on the scene is Grey (Jimonn Cole), an architect and environmentalist who sometimes stands apart, literally, from the couples. At an easel, he is also painting the scene, complete with its trees and greenery. Grey appears to care about the property.

Eno is a gifted playwright and he devises a much fuller storyline which encourages ramifications to sneak up on the viewer. These occur after a longish opening as the characters are introduced. During the first portion of the play, the strength of the back-and-forth dialogue is undeniable, but one may begin to wonder where, if anywhere, this will go. The author then begins to layer his characters.

For example, Righty is more thoughtful and multi-dimensional than it once seemed. Thus, Harris Yulin (who was distinctive in a supportive role in television's "Ozark" fairly recently) has the difficult job of embodying a man who appears to be linear but ultimately is not. Yulin, a distinctive stage actor for many decades, is a strong and adept performer. He does not rush; he permits Eno's lines to settle. Righty says, "I'm old and scared and poor." Suffice to add this: Righty is neither simplistic nor simple.

To his credit, Eno drives the show through four characters who are thinking past the obvious and/or are influenced by unforeseen circumstances. Only Grey continues to be the man we see early on. Once again, Yale Rep stages an outdoor play. Evan C. Anderson's lighting proactively assists while original music by Emily Duncan Wilson is important as well. The overall setting and look, created by designer Karl, is inspiring. The trees, with leaves, lift high. This is an old graveyard and one that both gives pause to and encourages rumination.

Oliver Butler, who has worked with Eno before, directs The Plot in a fashion which enables its theme to gradually assume its hold. Nothing is rushed. The land within the cemetery is the primary catalyst for all. Eno's words are neither bombastic nor declarative. His scripting provides for some levity as the show moves along. The decision to stay clear of pronouncement is wise.

The Plot leaves one in a contemplative state of mind. Righty, as he is first presented, has a single focus: retaining his place in the cemetery. That would be acceptable, if predictable. But Will Eno delves far deeper through this primary character and some others. Questions hover as Righty, Joanne, Tim and Donna are further explored from their earliest moments. Where is Eno transporting them through his scripting? Even more to the point, where is he taking theatergoers as they walk away and ponder the play's implications?

The Plot runs through December 21, 2019, at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven CT. For tickets, call 203-432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.


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