Thursday, May 11, 2017

What fresh hell? Enda Walsh brings "Arlington" to Brooklyn

The world beyond whatever literal, metaphoric or metaphysical rooms or shelters we construct for ourselves is a precarious place--is it not, now more than ever?--and any time spent hiding from it will be limited. Even your own body, in fact, can be thought of as a room or containing structure--illusory, in its way, and unstable.

In his 2016 play, Arlington, Irish playwright and director Enda Walsh--who collaborated with the dying David Bowie on one of his last works, the musical Lazarus--imagines the loveless, meticulously sterile environment of a waiting room, a transitional space continuously and increasingly imposed upon by a ravaged and ravaging external world. Neither the artificial potted tree (easily toppled) nor the aquarium (where are the fish?) provide reliable signs of life and warmth. And surveillance monitors deny even the solace of privacy as you wait for your number to be called.

Staged in its American premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse and co-presented with the Irish Arts Center as part of IAC's Enda Walsh in New York project, the 90-minute play overlaps its three characters' actions with radio voiceovers and highlights the physical quality of their desperation with Emma Martin's ingenious choreography. Alarming sounds, malfunctioning lights and even a small shower of what looks like blood-red ash intensify the situation for Isla (Charlie Murphy), stuck in a room in a tower, a gawky young man (Hugh O'Connor) tasked with keeping an eye on her from his monitor-cluttered security office and another oddball (Oona Doherty) who, in the midst of it all, bursts onto the scene to unleash an extraordinary dance solo. It is Doherty--in her fiery, doom-eager vigor--who dares to raise the banner for life. Although her appearance certainly kicks this play up several notches, there's continuous interest for fans of dance throughout--in particular, the brilliant angularity of Murphy's embodiment of Isla, easily a Duchamp/Marcel Marceau/Pee Wee Herman collab.

Arlington is a disturbing, bracing collage of Walsh's text, Martin's movement, music (Teho Teardo), sound (Helen Atkinson), video (Jack Phelan), scenic design (Jamie Vartan), lighting (Adam Silverman) and the riveting work of its three performers.

Arlington continues through May 28 at St. Ann's Warehouse. For information and tickets, click here.

Rooms--the companion production in the Enda Walsh in New York series--continues through May 28 at Cybert Tire, site of the future home of the Irish Arts Center. For complete information and tickets for Rooms, click here.

St. Ann's Warehouse
45 Water Street, Brooklyn

Cybert Tire
726 11th Avenue (near 51st Street), Manhattan

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