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Off-Broadway Review: “Fear” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “Fear” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (Through Sunday December 8, 2019)
Written by Matt Williams
Directed by Tea Alagiæ
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Perhaps the most problematic element in the new play “Fear” by Matt Williams is that it is flooded with too many sources of fear that tend to diminish the fear that might actually be present during the action of the play. Characters display their fear of infidelity, bullying, child welfare and safety. These concerns and fears are all revealed while conducting a debate over whether an adolescent, who is being held captive tied to a chair in an abandoned shed, is guilty of harming a missing girl. It is a good cop (the intellectual white-collar college professor) verses a bad cop (the tormenting blue collar plumber) parley, that drives the plot, not the fear of the detained child and what will happen to him. The distracting discussion might be character exposition and contain some emotional outbursts but does not quite provide the necessary tension to elevate this scenario to a thriller. The suspense comes in fits and starts that undermines the urgency of the situation and dissipates the anxiety. The twists and turns are trite and calculated.

Director Tea Alagic is successful in moving the real time event at a quick pace but lacks the ability to bring doubt or the necessary conjecture needed to produce the so called “fear” the piece revolves around. Enrico Coloantoni fills the antagonist plumber Phil with a strong bravado and an unexpected vulnerability but cannot avoid be trapped by a stereotype. Obi Abili provides the protagonist professor Ethan with an air of pretension and a boatload of morality. Alexander Garfin, a LaGuardia high school student making his off-Broadway debut, holds his own as he instills a false innocence and frail demeanor into the captive boy Jamie. All three actors are admirable and do what they can with the material but the characters and set of circumstances are shallow and implausible. Sound design by Jane Shaw and lighting design by D.M. Wood are worthy of mention adding an interesting element to the proceedings. It is the impressive abandoned shed that covers the entire area of the stage of the Lucille Lortel Theatre, created by scenic designer Andrew Boyce, that steals the show. There is no chewing up this scenery!

Even with a somewhat predictable surprise ending, a foregone conclusion is that too much “fear”, erases the only “fear” that could make this new play entitled “Fear” become a suspenseful thriller.


“Fear’s” cast features Obi Abili, Enrico Colantoni, and Alexander Garfin.

The creative team includes scenic designer Andrew Boyce, lighting designer D.M. Wood, costume designer Oana Botez, sound designer Jane Shaw, fight director J. David Brimmer. Christine Catti is the production stage manager and casting is by Mary Jo Slater.

“Fear” runs at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street) through Sunday December 8, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.; Wednesday – Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 3:00 p.m. (added performances on November 25 at 7:00 pm. and Friday, November 29 at 3:00 p.m.). Tickets are $65 - $89 (plus a $2 facility fee) and can be purchased by visiting or by calling (866) 811-4111. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.
Photo: Enrico Colantoni, Alexander Garfin, and Obi Abili, in “Fear.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 18, 2019