FEAR: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
Testosterone and tempers fly amongst a plumber, college professor, and frightened 15 year old, who we meet in a rickety shed as they (almost literally) bat around the disturbing disappearance of a neighborhood eight year old girl at a lakefront.
When a character enters in a chokehold, you know you are in for a rough ride.
Ethan, an ivy league professor who teaches comparative literature, gets into an intense verbal spat with plumber Phil when he stumbles on him in the shed with Jamie who he is forcefully holding against his will tied to a chair. Phil is certain Jamie is troubled and is to blame for the missing girl, given that that he was the last to see her, and that there was a recent incident where a cat was deliberately set aflame because it was killing birds. We don’t know whether to believe that Jamie is capable of serious wrongdoing or whether he is just a victim of Phil who seems to have his own emotional demons. What justifies tough guy Phil to attempt to take matters into his own vigilante hands, we never quite understand.
Ethan tries diplomatically to convince Phil that they should contact the police about Jamie, but Phil threatens to force Jamie to confess via other less pleasant means. Ethan and Phil become verbal sparring partners reflecting class differences, religious beliefs and more, and the play endeavors to dig deep but begins to ramble as it unravels.
The hard-working cast features Obi Abili (Ethan), Enrico Colantoni (Paul), and Alexander Garfin (Jamie). They give the material their all and turn in strong performances. They are tightly directed by Tea Alagic, who does her best with all that is at stake.
While FEAR is intense, ambitious and attention-getting, since I never felt emotionally vested, even though just 80 minutes, it felt overwrought.
Making its world premiere, FEAR, written by Matt Williams, is playing a limited run through December 8, 2019 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in NYC.
The creative team includes scenic designer is Andrew Boyce, lighting designer is D.M. Wood, costume designer is Oana Botez sound designer is Jane Shaw, fight director is J. David Brimmer, Christine Catti is Production Stage Manager and casting is by Mary Jo Slater.
FEAR was developed at Midtown Direct Rep, Maplewood, NJ (Interim Managing Director Ondine Landa Abramson) and The New Harmony Project, Indianapolis, IN (Lori Wolter Hudson, Artistic Director).
MATT WILLIAMS (Playwright) is the author of numerous plays including Between Daylight And Booneville (Kennedy Center and Off-Broadway), Bruce Lee Is Dead, and I’m Not Feeling Too Good Either, and a professor of playwriting at Columbia University. Williams created and produced “Home Improvement,” was a writer/producer of “The Cosby Show,” and created “Roseanne.” He directed the world-premiere musical Open Heart and produced The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin Off-Broadway. His various film credits include What Women Want, Where The Heart Is, What Men Want and The Keeping Room.
TEA ALAGIĆ (Director) is an internationally-acclaimed, multilingual director whose work has been seen off-Broadway, regionally and internationally. She holds a BFA in acting from Charles University in Prague and an MFA in directing from the Yale School of Drama, where she received the Julian Milton Kaufman Prize in Directing. ATSelected credits include Tarell McCraney’s The Brothers Size (Public Theater, Studio Theater Washington DC, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Old Globe San Diego, and Abbey Theatre in Dublin); North American premiere of Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s Jackie starring Tina Benko (NY City Center, multiple Lortel Award nominations); Charise Smith’s Washeteria (Soho Rep); Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring Elizabeth Olsen and Julian Cihi (CSC); Passing Strange by Stew and Heidi Rodewald (Wilma Theater, nominated for 9 Barrymore Awards, winner of Best Musical Direction); Daniel Alexander Jones’ Black Light (Greenwich House/NYC) and The Book of Daniel (UT Austin); Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s Lidless (Page 73); and Emma Stanton’s No Candy (Portland Playhouse).