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Off-Broadway Review: “A Bright Room Called Day” at The Public’s Anspacher Theater (Through Sunday December 22, 2019)

Off-Broadway Review: “A Bright Room Called Day” at The Public’s Anspacher Theater (Through Sunday December 22, 2019)
Written by Tony Kushner
Directed by Oskar Eustis
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Tony Kushner’s dystopian vision has a firm grounding in the history of the rise of fascism in Germany in the early 1930s and in the methodical and somewhat meteoric rise of Adolf Hitler to Chancellor of the German Reich. This vision is embodied in “A Bright Room Called Day” currently running at The Public’s Anspacher Theater. Mr. Kushner places himself in this revision of his first play written thirty-four years ago when he was a directing student at New York University. This new character Xillah (a hapless and distraught Jonathan Hadary) interrupts the action of his play “grappling with the anxiety, distraction, hope, and hopelessness of an artist facing the once unthinkable rise of authoritarianism in modern America.” One immediately thinks of Tony Kushner’s epic work “Angels in America.”

Xillah’s concerns are echoed and challenged by his alter-ego Zillah (an energetic and zealous Crystal Lucas-Perry) who encourages him to finish his revision as a stern warning that the “center is not holding” and unless history is allowed to repeat itself, the scourges of fascism need to be named and neutralized. Zillah is an American woman “enraged by the cruelty of the Reagan administration.” She wants Xillah to allow her to enter the action of the play to warn Agnes Eggling’s (Nikki M. James) “cadre of passionate, progressive friends, torn between protest, escape, and survival as the world they knew crumbles around them,” of the danger of compliance and complicity.

Oskar Eustis directs “A Bright Room Called Day” with grace, allowing the ensemble cast (Linda Emond, Michael Esper, Grace Gummer, Jonathan Hadary, Nikki M. James, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Nadine Malouf, Mark Margolis, Estelle Parsons, Michael Urie, and Max Woertendyke) the space needed to develop their characters fully with stunning authenticity. David Rockwell’s scenic design and John Torres’s somber lighting complement the apocalyptic tone of Mr. Kushner’s vision for the future.

The audience connects to the dystopian vision playing out on stage and recognizes that the threat of fascism is always on some horizon in some part of the world, often closer than one would expect or hope. As Die Alte (the brilliant and consummate Estelle Parsons) wafts onto the stage playing the role of a Greek Chorus, conscience overcomes crisis just enough to alert the audience (and the world) to be watchful of what is “slouching towards Bethlehem.”

A BRIGHT ROOM CALLED DAY

The cast for “A Bright Room Called Day” features Linda Emond, Michael Esper, Grace Gummer, Jonathan Hadary, Nikki M. James, Crystal Lucas-Perry, Nadine Malouf, Mark Margolis, Estelle Parsons, Michael Urie, and Max Woertendyke.

“A Bright Room Called Day” features scenic design by David Rockwell; co-costume design by Susan Hilferty and Sarita Fellows; lighting design by John Torres; sound design by Bray Poor; projection design by Lucy Mackinnon; hair, wig, and makeup design by Tom Watson; and fight direction by Thomas Schall.

“A Bright Room Called Day” at The Public’s Anspacher Theater (425 Lafayette Street) hrough Sunday December 22, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday through Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single tickets, starting at $75, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Michael Urie and Nikki M. James in “A Bright Room Called Day.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Wednesday, December 18, 2019