Hamish Linklater is one of our most promising A-list young actors. He is clever, concise and quirky. He did a brilliant job in David Ives’s “The School for Lies” at the Classic Stage Company, shone in “Seminar” and might be better known to most for his role on the television show “The New Adventures of Old Christine”.
He is now a most promising playwright. His ninety minute enigma, THE VANDAL, has just opened at The Flea Theater on White Street, Off-Off Broadway and it is a refreshing and most welcome relief from the many sorry revivals being produced on Broadway.
Believability is foremost. Believability in the characters, their actions and relationships make for a sharp and intriguing production helmed by Jim Simpson who with his creative team (David M. Barber, set – Brian Aidous, lighting and Claudia Brown, costumes) keeps the audience on its toes for the ninety minutes running time as the story detours here and there, twisting and turning and being most original. Keeping us wondering who is being truthful. Who is really who?. And having us devour every crisp word of dialogue.
The cast is exceptional.
Deirdre O’Connell gives a mesmerizing and multi-textured performance as Woman – as she waits on a cold bench for a bus on a cold night in Kingston, New York – a place that one wishes never to have to be waiting for a bus – a bus that never seems to be on time or arrive, somewhat akin to waiting for Godot, going from anxious to out of control to acceptance.
Boy (Noah Robbins giving another most memorable performance) enters and tries to strike up a conversation with this seeming troubled and cold and taciturn woman who doesn’t trust herself to open up to this stranger who tells the most disturbing and curious stories as he attempts to lure her into buying him some beer.
The bus stop is somewhere between the local hospital and cemetery. The nearby liquor store is where Man (a finely tuned Zach Grenier) sells beer and cigarettes and has his own stories to weave. We wonder who is telling the truth and you will be swayed back and forth as revelations unfold.
Everyone has a friend who has a problem. But who is the friend? Is it you? – as you try to explain your feelings without stating that the problems are really yours?
Marriage, death, sickness, drinking, connecting, lies and honesty are touched upon with a fresh voice and insight in this smart and satisfying and yes, entertaining production that features a couple of odd false endings.
With a fine ear for language Mr. Linklater manipulates with great skill. One surprise follows another in this dark comedy leading to an emotional, riveting and unexpected ending that you should experience for yourself. Through February 17th.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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