What May Fall: Theater Review

What May Fall Theater Review - H 2013
Darrett Sanders

What May Fall Theater Review - H 2013

Sensitive theater-making and topnotch ensemble sustain a complex realization of a play that falls somewhat short of its ambitions. 

The accidental death of a man in a public space prompts an exploration of grief among his loved ones and strangers alike.

A window-washer accidentally falls to his death from a Minneapolis office building, and witnesses and family suffer the traumatic emotional consequences. A cross section of lonely and alienated characters manage or fail to cope in their variegated ways, as this Crash-like premise develops instead in unconventionally symbolically poetic styles to express both collective and individual angst and grief.

Based on playwright Peter Gil-Sheridan’s personal experience at the scene of such an accident, What May Fall plumbs the disconnectedness of city life by exploring flailing stabs at personal connections, and he conceives an array of vivid characterizations that run through plot entanglements more complicated than intricate. His sensibility reveals a great deal of awareness of facets of the human condition as it manifests itself today (and the national response to the shooting tragedy at Newtown, which occurred during rehearsals, is a palpable presence), yet he does not ultimately manage to surmount the heavy schematism of his dramatic mechanism even as he proffers perhaps too many intriguing theatrical strategies.

Theatre of NOTE displays its long-established comfort level with mixing realistic interplay with abstract expression on a suggestively minimal set (by Ellen Lenbergs) imaginatively lit (by John A. Garofalo) to create a strong sense of place without backdrops, building up a fierce head of urban dread (greatly enhanced by evocative music and sound design by Jonathan Snipes).

Director Mary Jo DuPrey maintains a light touch but an unerring command of the many contending tones, even managing to make the use of masks pertinent rather than risible, and all the actors serve the text admirably -- better, alas, than it serves them. Brad C. Light conveys the agony of survival guilt as the deceased’s c-oworker who turns obsessively fearful, while the ever-indispensible Lauren Letherer graciously channels her inner bus driver as his supportive and practical wife.

Christopher Neiman has the most intractably difficult role as a disaffected office drone who destructively spoils every relationship with his pitiable self-absorption. While the other roles may have an underlying whiff of conceptual cliché, every cast member imbues them with a grounded glow and individual idiosyncrasy that makes them compellingly believable and emotionally involving.

What May Fall may not fundamentally succeed as an ambitious work of art, but all hands combine to make a satisfying evening of theater nevertheless. 

Venue: Theatre of NOTE (runs through March 23)
Cast: Christopher Neiman, Nicholas S. Williams, Lauren Letherer, Inger Tudor, Michelle Hilyard, Brad C. Light, Christine Breihan, Jason Denuszek, Alana Dietz
Director: Mary Jo DuPrey
Playwright: Peter Gil-Sheridan
Producer: Alex Elliott-Funk & John Money
Set designer: Ellen Lenbergs
Lighting designer: John A. Garofalo

Music and sound designer: Jonathan Snipes

Costume designer: Letherer