Nov '03 [Home]

Other Arts:Theatre

Waiting for Beckett
13th St. Rep's The Cat and the Moon (Yeats)

by Paul Espel

. . .

In The Cat And The Moon, at 13th St. Rep. Co., resident playwright Tom O'Neil has adapted and expanded an early 24-minute W.B. Yeats 'dance play' (1924). It's a pleasant and fun evening with some spirited actors in a homey atmosphere.

Michael Andrews is a blind man and Nixon Cesar is a lame man whom he carries around on his back to act as his eyes. Their symbiotic relationship has brought them, in pre-Beckett fashion, to a search for a holy well that they hope will cure their afflictions. Along the way, they meet a saint (Tim Cox) in a monk's robe and a masked bandit (invented by Mr. O'Neil) played with a Johnny Depp-like humor and abandon by George Bernard Carroll Jr.

This quartet frolics through the evening with some deft use of minimal lighting by Jason Godbey and carried out by Brian Hamill. Even the sound is modulated and doesn't announce its presence, filling the room easily as an integral part of the play. Veteran director Stanley Harrison has done a fine job with this ensemble. Lorena B. Egan choreographed.

In the evening's high point, Michael Andrews's blind man makes a sort of devil's bargain for his sight. His crafty, yet transparent doings had the audience roaring. Nixon Cesar's contorted face matches his broken-down body and he shows a formidable physical grace throughout. Tim Cox's saint is lucid and properly naïve, and Mr. Carroll's bandit makes a beautifully transcendent turn at the end.

Some of the evening seems more like an exercise in dialogue, but some is also subtle and wise. The vague mysticism sometimes got the better of me, but all in all it's a good effort by Mr. O'Neil, with a certain je ne sais quoi shining through. Here I must confess I've always loved Yeats the poet, but find him no Beckett or Synge on the stage.

Founder Edith O'Hara, 86 years young, has been running 13th St. Rep Co., this comfortable little space, for some 32 years—and producing Israel Horovitz's play, Line, which she also directed, for 29 of them.

The Spanish playwright Lope De Vega said theater was "two trestles and a board…and a passion." There's passion to spare at this vintage theater on 13th St. just off 6th Ave. The Cat and the Moon runs until Nov. 16. (212-675-6677)

(Paul Espel is a Regular Contributor to the magazine. [Masthead].)