New York City Theater
"There's the Story"
Blue Heron Arts Center
Initially, “There’s the Story,” the new play at the Blue Heron Arts Center, comes off as awkward and irritating. In a shabby midtown Manhattan apartment (a typically post-graduate student digs) a would-be composer (Henry) sits at a piano, struggling to overcome his writer’s block. The short staccato scenes are interspersed with blackouts and grating chords of atonal music. Is playwright Timothy McCracken attempting a Beckett-style piece? If so, this does not work.
But gradually an engaging story does emerge, mainly because McCracken has created believable (though not particularly likeable) characters--Henry, his roommate Curtis, and the girl, Alexandra, played by McCracken himself, Sean Dougherty and Tara Falk respectively. These three are not stereotypes, but fleshed out characters—the driven, desperate Henry, the smarmy, superficial Curtis, and the thoughtful, caring Alexandra. And despite the familiar dynamics of a three-way relationship (will Alexandra end up with Curtis or Henry?), “Story” has the unique underpinnings of music. It is music that makes their world go round. The boys are composers, graduates of a Manhattan music school, the girl a one-time cellist who has abandoned her craft. Henry is blocked because his beloved sister has disappeared and may be dead, causing him to lose heart—and the creative urge.
McCracken is a better playwright than actor, and his periods of staring blankly into space do not enhance the characterization. This may be director Christopher Grabowski’s choice, but, in either case, the play’s central character deserves an interpretation of more color. And both Falk and Dougherty tend to mug and over-act, at least in the early scenes. But they settle in nicely as the story progresses, with the two male actors shining in a strong fight scene.
In all, a promising new piece, once the show gets rolling.
-- Irene Backalenick
May 6, 2005