A recently parole ex-convict tries to rebuild his life.
Tue Sep 27 2011
Photograph: Yindy Vatanavan
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Chad Beckim's peculiar After. is that rare thing, a bad mixture of good ingredients. Considered separately, its inception, its central character, even its interest in fanged comedy all argue for it. But these elements, balanced poorly and heightened unwisely, wind up also arguing among themselves.
Beckim's tonally uncertain drama focuses on Monty (the wonderful Alfredo Narciso), adjusting to life after 17 years of unjust incarceration. In tackling the issue, Beckim elevates the political stakes (we desperately need plays that talk about jail), and he also essays a neat dramaturgical gambit. By creating Monty as a Kaspar Hauser--style naf, a man raised in a barred cave, the writer can use his disorientation to point to our own contemporary absurdities and excesses.
But this is where my applause peters out. The dramatic element becomes melodrama, so that scenes with the always-welcome Andrew Garman as Monty's confessor-therapist devolve into demands that Monty "move on." The potential for vituperative absurdism turns into bland fish-out-of-water comedy, ranging from romance with a hyperactive CVS employee (Jackie Chung) to dealing with his juvenile boss (hammy Debargo Sanyal). Director Stephen Brackett neither coaxes the disjunctive elements together nor separates them in some interestingly formal way, so we wind up wallowing in hotchpotch. Luckily, Narciso—a preternaturally elegant cipher—stands stock-still in the center of the mess. His sweet-natured paralysis transcends melancholy to become charismatic absence, a portrait of damage that, unlike Monty's real-life antecedents, cannot be ignored.