An intriguing play has just opened at the Ontological Theater at St. Marks (131 East 10th Street @ 2nd Avenue). It is called Strangers. Written by Nastaran Ahmadi. She has obviously been greatly influenced by the film-noir genre of the 1940’s. Strangers is even structured and written in a screenplay vs. typical dramatic style.
Its story is lean. Ella (Jen Taher) who has been married to Stephan (Daniel Popa) for 3 years wants to have a celebratory party where he will give a speech telling one and all how much he loves her. Only problem is, is that he is unsure that he does. It was a marriage of convenience. His. As a foreigner, Stephan needed to be married to an American to get his Green Card. He doesn’t work much. He plays. With Bob (Joey Williamson), who is gay and has mono and plays guitar and sings songs reminiscent of the type that Phoebe sang on the TV sit-com, Friends.
Only there are no friends here. Only strangers. Using one another. Even in marriage they are strangers. No one really connects. Although they try. Dan (Brad Love), Stephan’s lawyer, meditates and has lustful thoughts and actions towards first his receptionist (Franny Silverman – who brilliantly squeezes herself into the knee hole of a desk) and then Woman (Kim Gainer) a Brazilian artiste who paints, and sings and “moves well” on top of said desk.
There are many short scenes, some that overlap and some that have fascinating black and white videos (Director of Photography Miklos Buk) projected on a back screen and two overhead split up paneled screens featuring Bogie and Bacall and the actors in the play. It is expertly executed by the fine cast and originally directed by Shoshona Currier – who brings a great lyricism to the work. Although, at times, there is too much going on for its own good. It comes across as some kind of absurdist Edward Albee take on happiness. With global warming thrown in for good measure. Add in the parallels to the male/female relationships in those old Bogart movies. Some singing. Some dancing.
Franny Silverman becomes the Femme Fatale. She is ably aided and abetted by Dectective (Peter Allen Stone) who is just perfect in the part. They are both wonderful to watch. Ms. Silverman has a striking presence, a terrific comic sensibility and is someone who will have a fine future. As Operator – she’s “just a girl with a head set that has all the answers.” I believe she does.
The others in the cast are all up to what the playwright asks of them. A confused and longing for love Jen Taher tries her best to win over her lothario, looking forlorn in her wedding gown which has become “heavy and coarse” and wanting only to be happy. This gets a bit preachy at plays end where I half expected them all to sing “Somewhere”. Daniel Popa has just the right sex appeal and never becomes obnoxious. Brad Love makes for a confused and lustful lawyer with impish charm as Kim Gainer seduces. And Joey Williamson garners much sympathy playing his guitar and singing his songs also longing for love from Stephan.
Strangers isn’t perfect. What is? Who is? But it is intriguing.