Tomorrow in the Battle @ Stageworks
By Michael Eck Special To The Times Union
Hudson: August 19, 2012
Entertainment is fun, but art is important. Entertainment makes us smile, but art reminds us we are alive.
It's often not easy, art. Not easy to make. Not easy to interpret. Sometimes not even easy to endure.
But it's important and it's important that there are artists willing to push through; to make statements; to question; to, well, to make art.
Stageworks/Hudson's Artistic Director Laura Margolis is one of them, and she continues to program works that challenge viewers to reconsider their place in the world.
Just as importantly, she directs these works with a sure eye to their worth, a guiding vision ready to stare down the hardest elements of existence and show them as they are.
Currently, Margolis' production of Kieron Barry's "Tomorrow in the Battle" is onstage in Hudson and it's one of the most remarkable pieces of theater in recent memory. Brilliant would be the word.
Randall Parsons' set design makes use of the theater's great depth of field by striking lines across the floor, almost like runways. It's all angles, distinct paths away from each other, much like Barry's script, in which the characters never have a proper dialogue.
Instead, each figure speaks their own drama. Each says what they feel, leaving the audience to make the broader connections.
That takes trust on the artist's part and both Barry and Margolis exhibit such trust. So do the members of Margolis' cast — Timothy Deenihan, Celia Schaefer and Danielle Skraastad. They, after all, are the ones left naked on the stage, wearing, outside their costumes, only Barry's words and Margolis' gin-crisp instructions.
The story. Deenihan is a London heart surgeon, Simon, married to Anna (Schaefer), an upper echelon defense executive. Jennifer (Skraastad) is in finance, at a very high level. Simon and Jennifer are having an affair. And there you have it, but Barry mines this simple scenario for so much more.
The great goal of art is to reflect a mirror back at the viewer. The tale doesn't have to be new. It's the telling that makes it fresh, that makes it hurt.
And Barry's telling is — to use that word again — brilliant.
Deep fans of theater will know Harold Pinter's "Betrayal." That work is a cousin to "Tomorrow In The Battle" not so much in its documentation of a troika, but in its brave, creative expression of the affair.
"Betrayal" and "Battle" are very different plays about the exact same thing. Both distinctly British, both sublime in their horror and both built on mere words the way a Van Gogh is built on mere pigments.
"Tomorrow in the Battle" is not entertainment. It's art. Be as brave as Margolis is in making it. Buy a ticket.
Love Greed Sex War
By James Yeara, August 23, 2012
Simon (Timothy Deenihan), the handsome, sophisticated heart surgeon, stands upstage left. Anna (Celia Schaefer), the winsome nuclear-arms regulator, stands upstage right. Jennifer (Danielle Skraastad), a vivacious bonds trader, stands midstage. Each character is on a different raked platform; the three-foot-wide blue platforms, one a half-foot high while another is nine inches high and the last a foot tall, intersect at midstage forming an "X" with an "I" dissecting it. The raised platforms occupy the stage, giving the three characters the only places to play as they transverse carefully the various heights, edges, and gaps. The seemingly simple set creates a complex series of angles and levels that mirror the complex weaving of monologues from the three characters as Tomorrow in the Battle plays out in 90 riveting minutes.
Randall Parsons' scenic design tasks Deenihan, Schaefer, and Skraastad in the same ways Kieron Barry's play does. Deena Pewtherer's sophisticated lighting palette compliments the set, acting, and play just as Laura Margolis' clear staging completes the play. Having its world premiere at Stageworks/Hudson, Tomorrow in the Battle is structurally like a Brian Friel play, only that Irish genius would never write about British One-Percenters. Instead of The Faith Healer, here you get The Faithless; instead of the popular Molly Sweeney, you get just get Ayn Rand's X Generation. Barry, whose Lonely Hearts Ventura was a hit of this year's Play by Play festival at Stageworks, weaves patriotism, love, lust, money, idealism, Freud, entitlement, nuclear deterrent, and hypocrisy with a blend of theatricality, humor, realism, and lyricism that grips the audience not just during the performance, but long after. As she has shown throughout her 17-year stewardship of Stageworks, Margolis has an eye for exciting new plays.
Tomorrow in the Battle's setting is present-day London, but the milieu is pure moneyed narcissism. It could be set anywhere and anytime wealth entitles the ego. The play spins out in a series of addressed-to-the-audience monologues, and tells the interwoven tales of a heart surgeon without a heart, a nuclear scientist without a brain, and an investment advisor without money. As Simon, his wife Anna, and his mistress Jennifer confess, spill their insights into their cultures, and imagine or re-create sexual conquests both real and fantasized—The Fifty Shades of Grey crowd will find their bits titillated—the audience at Stageworks leaned in to empathize and laugh with the characters, even as they betrayed their spouses, lovers, professions, or country. The audience are the three's only outlet, as the actors don't interact with each other; while one character speaks, the others watch from the shadows. Deenihan, Schaefer, and Skraastad act with a precision and a truth that captivates even as their characters' actions are repellent. They are naked, but never nude, revealing themselves as fully as they are capable, but always clothed in shades of brown (the curious costume design by Maureen Schell). They create performances more typically demanded of a Shakespearean drama, only instead of hunchbacks desiring kingdoms, Tomorrow in the Battle gives the entitled moneyed elite desiring each other.
Playwright Barry's aesthetic encompasses not only the currently topical, the philosophically deep, and the frankly prurient, but entwines them all with a bracing humor: "I had random sex with the working class," Jennifer says to the audience with a smirk. "He could maintain an erection with an intelligent woman: How many can say that?" The play is also filled with similes, to allow the audience to understand how life is experienced by Simon, Anna, and Jennifer: "He looks at me like he's going to paint me," and, "He kisses me and afterward my mouth feels like it did after a clarinet lesson." Barry presents engaging conflicts, crises, and climaxes for his characters; the sound of his words suits the sense of his scenes. He challenges actors and audiences with a syntax and diction that is not the dumbed-down condescension of simple sentences and small words. Tomorrow in the Battle is a play to revel in.
'Tomorrow in the Battle'
The wages of deceit are high
Friday August 31, 2012
By Jeffrey Borak
Berkshire Eagle Staff
HUDSON, N.Y. -- The three characters in Kieron Barry's compelling new play, "Tomorrow in the Battle," -- which is being given a spellbinding world premiere at Stageworks Hudson -- are dancing on the edge.
Simon (Timothy Deenihan), a cautious, play-it-safe renowned heart surgeon, is in a torrid affair. His lover, Jennifer (Danielle Skraastad), whom he meets by chance at an opera, is the bright, engaging, sexy associate of a young financial wunderkind who is making an international name for himself. Simon's wife, Anna (Celia Schaefer), is a civil servant in Britain's Ministry of Defense who has uncovered a significant problem with a newly purchased key component to Britain's nuclear missile system and is caught between telling a committee of Parliament the truth or, at the direction of her boss, lying. And while her husband's illicit affair occupies more of his time, thoughts and energies, Anna wallows in sexual fantasies about her husband's close friend and colleague, to the point that she begins to consider how to transform fantasy into reality.
Lies build upon lies, deceit builds upon deceit; heretofore morally unchallenged consciences wrestle with moral and ethical dilemmas; indeed, virtually throw principles to the wind, almost on impulse.
None of them has any place to turn. Anna, who has always valued Simon's opinion and insight, finds him distracted and unapproachable; absent figuratively and literally.
Simon's sexual reawakening is a result of his affair. He becomes reckless in his public behavior and develops a heady, perilous disregard for the ethics of his profession and the skills that have made him among the foremost in his field; skills that will be sorely tested as he prepares to transplant a heart into a 10-year-old boy.
Jennifer takes too much for granted, especially in a career that finds her joined at the hip to a business partner whose career, along with hers. will take a dramatic unexpected turn during a visit to the New York Stock Exchange.
"Tomorrow in the Battle" is constructed as a series of interlocking narratives that shift back and forth among Barry's three characters. The structure creates a degree of clinical response to the events in these characters' lives. At the same time, Barry never wallows in bathos or melodrama. This is a sly, ingeniously crafted piece in which Barry carefully, patiently drops a pebble here, a pebble there into this pond and then waits as the individual ripples gather into one shattering tidal wave.
Laura Margolis has mounted "Tomorrow in the Battle" with disarming simplicity and directed with sharp instincts and a keen feel for the treacherous undercurrents that flow beneath this oh-so-mannered British surface. She also has assembled a first-rate ensemble of actors who are keenly attuned, each of them, to the delicate nuances of this quietly devastating play. In a summer that's been notable for uncommonly strong individual and ensemble performances, "Tomorrow in the Battle" stands very tall indeed.