The Column Online



by John Guare

WingSpan Theatre

Directed by Susan Sargeant

Cara Reid - SHE
Ben Bryant - HE

Reviewed Performance: 7/23/2011

Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Heading up north to New York City where no one uses gentility or turns politely away to make their point but, rather, tells it like it is right up in your face, WingSpan Theatre Company then presents John Guare's two person absurdist comedy, The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year. John Guare, one of NYC's darlings of the Off-Off Broadway movement, pens this one act delving into the difficulties of finding and then trusting in relationships with another person in such a crazy, potentially paranoid world. The two characters, She and He, meet in Central Park where She is feeding the pigeons. She agonizes that in the 11 months she has lived there, no one has even spoken to her let alone made any meaningful connection.

Enter He who whittles his way into her space by bemoaning how bad it is to feed the birds, then explaining he needs a gift and could he have her Cracker Jack prize. She is immediately leery and frightened by He, threatening him with harm but with not much sincerity. Eventually they sit together on the park bench, he telling outrageous stories of his sister's arm being ripped off by a polar bear at the zoo, his wife's attempts to shoot his feet when he comes home and that he is a seeing-eye person for blind dogs, amongst others. Despite all his lunatic behavior and talk, they are drawn to each other, kiss and start a Sunday in the Park relationship.

Three weeks go by in seemingly loving bliss when He spots his wife and infant children across the park, his stories start to make sense to She and it becomes apparent their love is doomed. Two silent rifle shots down the loved ones and as the truth comes out, they die happily side by side, pigeons nearby.

Ok, so John Guare is a nut! No actually he is the grand presenter of all the lunacy in the world, and especially in mega urban cities like his own New York City. When asked why his plays are so kooky, he laughingly retaliates, stating that nothing he can ever dream up or write is more fantastical than all the worldwide events we are numbingly bombarded with each and every day. He merely holds up the mirror and reflects on the world and how we define ourselves.

It takes some insight and skill to not allow actors to fall down the "crazy" hole when portraying such absurdist characters. Also directing this play, Susan Sargeant never lets Cara Reid or Ben Bryant cross that fine line. Somewhat Lois Lane and Clark Kent in dress and demeanor, the two play it for real which is the only way to represent Guare's world. The play is so fast-paced and short it is hard to really get into their relationship but both possess the instant charm and chemistry necessary for the audience to have any empathy for them under such bizarre circumstances.

The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year makes no big moral statement, and has no resolution or happy ending. WingSpan Theatre Company presents it factually and leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions and make their own opinions, much like the events of the world from which Guare takes inspiration.

Wingspan Theatre Company's Double Bill
during the FIT (Festival of Independent Theatres)
at the Bath House Cultural Center on White Rock Lake
521 E. Lawther Drive
Dallas, TX 75218

These two plays run with another play on Thursday, July 28th at 8:00 pm; Saturday, July 30th at 5:00 pm; Friday, August 5th at 8:00 pm, and Saturday, August 6th at 2:00 pm.