Wed Apr 16 2008
Photograph: Harold Gess
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Chances are you know someone like Harry Caul: emotionless, paranoid and whose most intimate relationships are with people he knows only electronically. Although Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation—about surveillance expert Caul, who becomes a casualty of his own profession—is set in 1972, months after the notorious break-in at the Watergate complex, its relevance couldn’t be clearer in an age of government-monitored phone calls, video surveillance and pervasive spyware.
Like the movie, Kate Harris’s conscientious and only occasionally clunky adaptation is deliberately slow. But director Leo Farley and actor David Mogentale, both longtime 29th Street Rep members, nimbly balance Caul’s heaviness by finding air pockets where the lonely, twitching soul yearns for connection: when he plays his saxophone, goes to confession and, as the plot unfolds, worries that his current case could lead to murder, just as a previous one did. Eight other actors join forces around him with crispness and vitality.
Mark Symczak’s set and Rebecca Ming’s costumes are emblematic of the era, and although some of the Act II twists probably won’t surprise audiences as they did when the movie was originally released, this moody production marks a welcome return (after a two-year hiatus) for a company known for taut, intense work.