This Wide Night -- Theater Review

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"This Wide Night" was commissioned and first presented by Clean Break, a London theater company that works with women who are enmeshed in the criminal justice system. No doubt this target audience will be greatly affected by Chloe Moss' play about the reunion of two former inmates. But mainly it is the superlative acting of Edie Falco and Alison Pill that provides compensation for the familiar aspects of this static drama.

As the play begins, 50-year-old Lorraine (Edie Falco) -- newly released from prison after a 12-year stint for murder -- arrives at the seedy flat of the much younger Marie (Pill), who has been free for several years. The women have an uneasy reunion, with the hardened Marie less than thrilled by the arrival of her former cellmate. Nonetheless, she allows her to stay, at first for one night and then for an extended time.

As the visit wears on, details of the women's relationship and their situation gradually trickle forth. Marie apparently is working at a pub, though one eventually learns otherwise, and Lorraine is desperate to reunite with her long-estranged adult son. Their time together generally consists of eating takeout pizza while watching the flickering images on Marie's broken-down silent television.

Little happens during the course of the play's 90 minutes, and the banal conversation, while having the ring of truth, fails to compel attention. But under the direction of Anne Kauffman, the actresses provide such superb performances -- marked by precise body language and silences that register with more impact than much of the dialogue -- that the evening takes on a greater weight. A vanity-free and severely deglamorized Falco gives her initially vulnerable Lorraine some intriguingly harsh shadings, and Pill -- who recently starred in the too-short-lived Broadway revival of "The Miracle Worker" --provides a carefully measured, subtle turn that makes clear the little girl underneath the hard-edged young woman.

Venue: Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, New York (Through June 20)
Presented by: Naked Angels
Cast: Edie Falco, Alison Pill
Playwright: Chloe Moss
Director: Anne Kauffman
Scenic designer: Rachel Hauck
Costume designer: Emily Rebholz
Lighting designer: Matt Frey
Sound designer: Rob Kaplowitz
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