Nomads. Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark's Church (see Off-Off Broadway). By Julia Jarcho. Directed by Alice Reagan. With Kate Benson, Rebecca Lingafelter, Jenny Seastone Stern, Ben Williams. Running time: 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
Nomads: In brief
Julia Jarcho, whose fascinating Grimly Handsome was one of 2013's standout plays, comes back to the Incubator with a new piece set in the 1930s and inspired by modernist writer Jane Bowles. Alice Reagan directs.
Nomads: Theater review by Helen Shaw
Jane Bowles is having a moment—50 years late. The oft-forgotten modernist playwright (In the Summer House) has returned to us in a sudden shower of Off-Off attention, our focus slewing again to her marriage to Paul Bowles, their lovers, their expat lifestyle, their artistic circle and then—to add tragedy to glamour—her alcoholism and long decline. Julia Jarcho paints her Cubist portrait in Nomads, but in Alice Reagan's inelegant production, much of Jarcho's dazzling paintwork has been muddied.
Jane here is Jean (jittery Rebecca Lingafelter), off on an ocean voyage to write—packing up typewriter, wide-legged linen pants and a blithe colonialist-bohemian attitude. Husband Dudley (a boneless, slippery Ben Williams) is happy to see Jean escape her lover, Connie (Jenny Seastone Stern), though he (and we) will be sorry to see the married pair's bantering stop. Menace lurks everywhere; a homicidal cabbie roams the streets (Williams again, teeth shining), and Jean's friend Joan (Kate Benson) struggles to remember a forgotten ex-lover who may be Joan herself. Language slips sideways into a gin fizz. “There are a lot of unsolved moodles, you know,” sneers the cabbie, peering in his rearview window.
Some details impart a wonderful aura: Benson's beetle-green turban; Williams's ascot; a couch swathed in orange and yellow, divided down the middle like an upholstery Rothko. But Jarcho's dark weirdness needs a confident helmsman, and Reagan (a fellow Jane Bowles enthusiast) has only a hazy idea of where to steer her extremely talented players. “There’s places and then there’s empty space around them. The wastes,” the cabbie intones, driving along on a pair of chairs. But there's a special kind of “empty space” in an unconfident production, the sense that people aren't quite sure where to stand, that everything is drifting and unmoored. This one has some of that…and just as the cabbie says, it's a waste.—Theater review by Helen Shaw