The Awake: in brief
Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) heads the cast of Ken Urban's play about corporate control in modern America. Andy Phelan and Jeff Biehl are also in the cast, directed by Adam Fitzgerald.
The Awake: theater review by Helen Shaw
First things first: Let me affirm that we need more plays about torture, stories that startle us out of our national malaise. Let’s hear ’em!, I cry. Let’s not, though, set our alarms with The Awake, Ken Urban’s noise-over-substance dream drama, which broaches serious issues and then collapses into derivative platitudes.
The Awake is more than half monologues: Characters narrate their actual situations and the escapist fantasies that occasionally interpenetrate. An American company (some NSA contractor, perhaps?) has just been revealed to have used torture; our characters are destabilized by even proximate contact with it. Urban can write electric interpersonal scenes, but he deliberately chooses not to, and his talents do not lie in first-person storytelling. It’s therefore unbearable to watch poor, terrorized Nate (an excellent Maulik Pancholy) explain his interrogation or the dissociating housewife Gabrielle (Lori Prince) describe her paranoid breakdown over her husband’s sketchy job. Worst of all, the playwright has bereaved Malcolm (Andy Phelan) lost in visions of drowning in a flooded world—like the play’s narrative device, this cliché needs bravura writing to work.
Director Adam Fitzgerald desperately tries to approximate excitement by playing loud music and having ensemble members shout a lot. But agitation isn’t the same thing as propulsion, and the play judders and clatters and screams while never moving forward.—Theater review by Helen Shaw
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