Working Theater is presenting at The Clurman at Theatre Row the New York premiere of the Helen Hayes Award-winning “Honey Brown Eyes” by Stefanie Zadravec. Some might say that there are too many awards being bestowed these days.
Ms. Zadravec has literally resurrected the “kitchen sink drama” as her play – actually two one act plays dealing with the same themes and some of the same characters takes place in two kitchens in Bosnia circa 1992 when the war was in full boom.
Set designer Laura Jellinek has misfired here. While I greatly admired her set for The Cocktail Party at The Actors Company Theatre, here she does director Erica Schmidt and the audience a disservice in that it takes so long for them to adapt Act II’s new kitchen area and makes it difficult to stage the two pieces as they begin to merge in the second half. Perhaps that’s intentional but it is distracting to say the least.
We all know of the horrors of war from afar but Ms. Zadravec wants us to see how it affects the people in their own homes up close (in their kitchens) and have us see and feel what it’s like. Now if you are going to set the play in Bosnia one might expect the actors/characters to sound like they really are from Bosnia. There is no attempt at accents here and that is also distracting.
Dragan (Edoardo Ballerini) has his assault rifle aimed at Alma (Sue Cremin) as the play begins. Excellent rapid fire dialogue. He assaults her verbally and then physically. He is looking for her twelve year old daughter Zlata (Beatrice Miller) who has a thing for American TV shows. He wants Alma to pack. He is taking her away. She refuses defiantly holding on to her home. LOUD ROCK MUSIC. Next scene: We finally get the back story as she remembers him from an old rock “n” roll band that her brother Denis had. They reminisce about the old days when his partner in crime Branko (Gene Gillette) appears urging him to hurry. MORE LOUD ROCK MUSIC. Daughter arrives. I won’t spoil it from here on. Act I ends so abruptly as to stun the audience into silence.
Act II begins as an exercise in acting class as an older woman Jovanka (Kate Skinner) peels an onion inducing tears and is cooking as the power has just returned accepting her life and attempting to go on as usual as Denis (Daniel Serafini-Sauli) brother of Alma seeks refuge in her apartment (Jovanka’s been abandoned by her family) as he is being hounded by Milenko (Gene Gillette again) in an unnecessary part as he never returns as Milenko but does as Branko when all this somehow merges as Jovanka and Denis get drunk and she tries to listen to her Mahler tapes on her cassette deck that is perched high atop a cabinet all but making it impossible for her to reach without stepping up on a chair.
Like the war itself “Honey Brown Eyes” drags on with MORE LOUD ROCK MUSIC between scenes until it’s blissfully over.
www.theworkingtheater.org Tickets $25.00 Through Feb 6th.
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