Reviews NYCOff-Broadway Published 19 January 2015

Wyoming

Theater for the New City ⋄ 19th-31st January, 2015

Wounded.

Jordan G. Teicher

Chekhov’s gun in Brian Watkins’ new play, Wyoming, is, in fact, a person — a shadowy figure who sits motionless, cap lowered over his eyes, for the better part of an hour. But those familiar with Chekhov’s principle know, at some point, he’ll fire. In the meantime, he’s a constant source of tension in what is, on its own, an abundantly tense drama.

Building morbid suspense is something of a specialty for Watkins, whose show last year at the Flea, My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer, pulsed with a similar mix of fear, repulsion and excitement. An even greater strength is Watkins’ ability to make that suspense pay off in ways that are surprising, strange and sometimes heart-stopping, one he displays again with the help of director Danya Taymor in Wyoming

The family at the center of Wyoming is broken, haunted by a tragedy that, left mostly unspoken, has scabbed, but just barely. When the source of that incident, the long-lost older brother Adam (Roger Lirtsman)returns, the wound is opened afresh.

Like many family dramas both real and imagined, the crux of this unraveling occurs over Thanksgiving dinner, a scene that is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Silences, for these family members, are so unbearable they desperately cover it with music (Bonnie Raitt) or television, and communication is so impossible, they play a word game to try to circumvent their shortcomings.

Even as more of the family’s shadowy past comes to light, Watkins keeps the mystery afloat with revelations that are exactingly timed. His brand of magical realism contributes to keeping the possibilities more wild, the outcomes less predictable. Anything can happen, and it often does.

In a talented cast, Sarah Sokolovic, who turned heads in Detroit at Playwrights Horizons back in 2012, stands out. As the sister, April, she’s exhausted and yet tireless in the peculiar manner unique to single moms, and utterly convincing in even the smallest gestures, as in the way she pulls on her cigarette as though coming up for air. Layla Khoshnoudi — who gave a subtly powerful performance in Hammer last year — is equally adept in a comic role, this time as April’s distracted, occasionally hyperactive daughter Sarah.

As in Hammer, Watkins displays a special feel for the rhythms and culture of the Midwest. He knows its personalities, its cadences, and its dark, bleak humor. The latter, in Wyoming, saves it from paralyzing sadness. Often, the show is as lyrical as it is hilarious. Sometimes, it’s both at the same time, as when Grant (Nate Miller) states plainly, “Time’s a mother-fucker,” following a poignant conversation about aging, memory and family.

Indeed, time, one of the thematic anchors of Wyoming, proves a strange force here, both slippery and unshakeable. As we follow the action in one scene, all the actors remain on stage in different parts of Edward T. Morris’ set, frozen in distinct places and time periods. On one side of the theater, Laura Ramadei, who plays the mother, and Carter Hudson who plays the father, sit, as though captured in a photo slide, in the middle of the drunken bar conversation that brought them fatefully together. On the other, their grown children years later discuss their fates. The past and the present exist simultaneously, physically and emotionally.

All of it just goes to show that people and events, like long-lost brothers and family tragedies, never really go away, that we are all who we’ve always been, bruises and all.

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Jordan G. Teicher is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Wyoming Show Info


Directed by Danya Taymor

Written by Brian Watkins

Cast includes Daniel Abeles, Carter Hudson, Layla Khoshnoudi, Roger Lirtsman, Nate Miller, Laura Ramadei, Sarah Sokolovic

Link http://www.lesseramerica.com/box-office

Running Time 95 minutes (no intermission)

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