Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Mountain of a Play in 90 Minutes

Many times I can rush home from a play and start writing about it instantly. Tonight after seeing Sharr White's Annapurna presented at The New Group, I had to first devour a bowl of low fat ice cream while reliving the powerful piece I had witnessed. I was at The New Group earlier this season and saw this listed on their lineup. Knowing that I had loved Sharr White's The Other Place - I knew I had to see what other amazing stories he could tell as a one act play.

I love to go into a new play knowing as little about it as possible. It was obvious that some have come expecting a sitcom when the two person play is helmed by Megan Mullally and real life husband Nick Offerman. The Emmy Award winning actress is best known as Karen Walker on "Will & Grace" while  Offerman is from "Parks and Recreation" (though the two did share an episode of "Will & Grace" too).  From the moment we see Offerman, I knew I was in the presence of an actor who understands not only the stage, but how to inhabit a character. He bares it all - literally - as he starts the show with nothing but an apron. A hermit of a writer living in a trailer in the Colorado mountains, he is completely thrown when his ex-wife walks in after having left him twenty years earlier with their son. But it's how author Sharr White and director Bart DeLorenzo choose to reveal layers of our anti-hero Ullysses that is so wonderful. Slowly showing an oxygen tank, bandages on his chest and we realize this is a man on his last legs and thus doesn't care that he lives in squalor. (And that's exactly what the small trailer is.) I spent the evening in awe of this man's performance that could match anything I had seen this season on Broadway (if this show had been playing a few blocks away).

Wife Emma is the opposite of everything this man seems to be and one wonders how the two ever were a couple to begin with. But as the meeting awkwardly progresses, we see that past and all of it's secrets. Mullally works hard at finding a level of comfort while hiding her true intentions for being there. She cleans, she cooks, she wrings her hands and she travels the length of the well-designed, meticulously messy set by Thomas A. Walsh over and over. (Yes…I loved the realness of this set. It actually is another character of 20 years of pain that I felt for Ullysses.) I've seen Mullally on the stage in other shows through the years, but it is always hard when someone becomes so known for one character. Kudos to her for pulling Emma in a direction far away from that of her iconic TV personality. 

Sharr White has tackled the question head on of what would you do if you could return to the ghosts of your past. And he does it with such ease and natural speech that I leave feeling lucky for having spent an evening witnessing his talent. I love that he can pack so much into so little time on stage and always make me feel as if I've run a marathon at the end of one of his productions.

The show closes June 1st, so I'm really glad I was able to see it before it leaves. If you are around NYC the next few days - get to 42nd Street and see it for yourself.

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