Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Unexpected Man

The Unexpected Man
by Yasmina Reza
Ken Ruta, Abigail Van Alyn
Directed by Stephen Drewes
Thurs, 4 August 2009, 8pm
The Exit Theatre

Last night I, along with about 80 others, crammed into the Exit Theatre for Spare Stage's production of The Unexpected Man, Yasmina Reza's wordy & literate play of ideas about the relationship between writers & their audiences. In a series of internal monologues, we hear the thoughts of 2 strangers sitting across from each other in a train compartment. One is a famous novelist, self-consciously growing into a bitter old man, the other a lively older woman who is perhaps his ideal reader. As they gradually become aware of one another, the situation becomes increasingly charged. For a while I worried that the playwright would be unable to wrap this up in a convincing way, but the ending is both satisfying & right.

I couldn't help noticing that the audience was made up largely of people around the same age as the characters. Perhaps they were drawn by the actors, Ken Ruta & Abigail Van Alyn, who have been staples of the Bay Area theater scene for decades. I got there early enough to take a seat in the front row. Despite the tight space, I enjoyed the chance to be so close to the performers, neither of whom seemed capable of making a false move. Unfortunately, my proximity also meant that I got to see a lady in the audience put her bare feet on the stage from time to time. Another lady next to me dozed off & had to be nudged awake by her husband.

For music lovers, I should note that this production uses a snippet of John Adams music at the start to indicate the setting of a moving train car. This works better than the 2 park benches on stage which incorrectly imply an exterior location.

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