By ANNE WASHBURN
45 Bleecker Theatre: 45 Below, April 17 – May 8, 2004
Links: www.13p.org, www.45bleecker.com
Directed by KEN RUS SCHMOLL
Sets SUE REES
Costumes JESSICA GAFFNEY
Lighting GARIN MARSCHALL
Sound MATTHEW GIVEN
Production Stage Manager MICHELE TRAUB
Press Representative JIM BALDASSARE
(in order of appearance)
Lowell – Mark Shanahan
Sara – Heidi Schreck
Nicol/Guard – Gibson Frazier
Irene/Anonymous Woman – Kristen Kosmas
James/Bartender – Travis York
Simon/Paul – Michael Stumm
Playwright Anne Washburn’s "elusive comedy" called THE INTERNATIONALIST has the distinction of marking the inauguration of a genuinely inspiring new collective called Thirteen Playwrights, Inc., or 13P. Comprised of thirteen established writers, the initial mission of 13P is to produce one play by each member of the group. If this entrée into the competitive world of New York theater is any indication, 13P has what it takes to find the road to success here and beyond.
As to the work of the moment, THE INTERNATIONALIST, we, the spectators, are offered a wonderfully ambitious comedy that is tremendously complemented by a gifted cast. Setting her play in an unnamed European nation, Ms. Washburn has added the clever element of an invented foreign language to accentuate the otherwise banal international intrigue, and to provide Lowell, as the visiting American, kindred spirits in the form of an attentive audience as lost in this unspecified European nation as he is.
As Lowell, actor Mark Shanahan has to represent not only the befuddlement of his character, but also the general lack of comprehension that he, as well as we, experience when the rest of the characters are communicating in their native tongue. Shanahan does wonders with small facial gestures, but is just as funny when compelled to expound with grandiosity. As the center of THE INTERNATIONALIST, Lowell’s adventures, small and large, guide the action of the play. Beginning with his odd entanglements with a co-worker called Sara (smartly portrayed by Heidi Schreck), moving on to the office, where he meets folks who speak English with varying levels of verbal acuity, and reaching, finally, more or less subtle, universal conclusions, Lowell is our stalwart fellow traveler. He may not make grand journeys, internally, but he makes relatable ones.
One of the most satisfying elements of THE INTERNATIONALIST is the vital, punchy dialogue. It drives the action, and is, in fact, the crux of the action all the way through. Well-executed by the aforementioned cast, and directed to precision by Ken Rus Schmoll, Anne Washburn’s wry script could nary be given a finer presentation off-Broadway. Teamed with a lovely set created by Sue Rees that seems quite simple at first but that contains the details of history, and all of the rest of the design elements, this is one of those productions that deserves a much longer run than it is slated for.
I often have people approach me to inquire, "What have you seen that’s good?" For the life of the run of THE INTERNATIONALIST, I have a definitive answer to satisfy all comers. Bravo 13P!
- Kessa De Santis -