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  • Theater, Drama
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Isolde. Abrons Arts Center (see Off-Off Broadway). Written and directed by Richard Maxwell. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission.

Isolde: In brief

Playwright-director Richard Maxwell, the bard of downtown deadpan, returns with this tale of a construction-company owner, his actress wife and the architect they hire to design her dream home.

Isolde: Theater review by Helen Shaw

Writer-director Richard Maxwell’s miraculous Isolde is a paragon of restraint—despite the sex scene by the proscenium…and the sword fight. Whatever the plot, however it glances at heartbreak and violence, the wry tragicomedy paints in watercolor, in pale washes that saturate your perception for hours afterward.

Actor Isolde (exquisite Tory Vazquez) runs lines with galumphing husband Patrick (Jim Fletcher). Her mind wanders (dementia?), and he distracts her with a project: designing a dream home. We scarcely have to glimpse architect Massimo (Gary Wilmes) to know Isolde will follow her Wagnerian predecessor into infidelity, or that Patrick’s friend Uncle Jerry (a dry Brian Mendes) will defend masculine honor—then snag the building contract.

This Isolde is more Chekhovian than operatic, hot blood cooled by humor, self-mockery, sweetness, regret. Even Sascha van Riel’s elegant plywood set stands tidily on gray carpet, and music cues pipe mostly through Jerry’s cell phone. Nothing is compressed performance-wise, though all play quietly. The quartet works at an incredible, precise pitch—throwing away every line but losing nothing.—Theater review by Helen Shaw

THE BOTTOM LINE Richard Maxwell’s stripped-away aesthetic achieves maximum emotional effect.

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