Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
William Donnelly leaks out the details of his play in tantalizing microdoses. At first glance, we’re watching just another tedious drunk natter at a bar. Padgett (Tim Ransom), British to the point of caricature, is prattling on about his lonely country childhood in the company of frogs, who bore the brunt of his boredom. Nolan (Stef Tovar) doesn’t even attempt to feign interest. He’s dead-eyed, and for good reason: The two men have just come from the funeral of Nolan’s estranged adult daughter, whose suicide was her ultimate fuck-you gesture. We can’t piece the back story together until Rebecca (Tricia Small) turns up and the relationships gradually come into focus: Nolan is her ex-husband, and Padgett is her shiny new spouse, a third wheel who copes with tragedy by blabbering homilies and guzzling to the point of incapacity.
It’s not until the two exes are alone in Nolan’s room, at Rebecca’s instigation, that the gloves come off. Director Veronica Brady and designer Tom Buderwitz, perhaps constrained by the dimensions of 59E59’s minuscule Theater C, short-shrift the atmosphere by suggesting a generic motel in lieu of the country inn specified in the script. Still, the tight quarters make for a thrilling and ultimately hilarious physical tussle (choreographed by Ned Mochel) the morning after. Astutely threaded throughout No Wake is the intentionally sketchy tragedy of the lost child. The mystery of her hostility lingers, along with the depth of her pain.
59E59 Theaters (Off Broadway). By William Donnelly. Directed by Veronica Brady. With Tim Ransom, Tricia Small, Stef Tovar. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through Oct 15.