Review: ‘Good’ is just okay.
- OnStage New York Critic
A good man, a literature professor in Franklin University, John Halder, makes all the right decisions in his life: he looks after his aging mother, who is suffering from dementia, he puts up with his mess of a wife, and he joins the Nazis. Two hours we spent in his head watching him rationalizing atrocious orders of the party. The fact that burning books, and later Jews, is logically justified by this intelligent mind, makes the play by Cecil Philip Taylor, written and first produced in 1982, desperately painful.
Celebrating its 30th season, Potomac Theatre Project (PTP/NYC) puts on a revival of Good, under direction of Jim Petosa, following the company’s stride in creating socially and politically charged theater. Good refers to the 1930s in Germany and takes place in John Halder’s head (Michael Kaye). Interactions with different people and different scenes are connected seamlessly. He sometimes directly addresses the audience, which serves as Halder’s conscience and judge.
Minimalistic scenic design by Mark Evancho, although lacking clarity, conveys an ambiguous space: three cubes in the middle of the stage work as various furniture in different scenes, four benches mark the edge of the stage and provide seating for actors not involved in the dialog. Their presence seems appropriate, as these people always inhabit Halder’s head, even outside of the direct communication. The piano in the middle is rarely used as a musical instrument but more often as a podium or storage.
Music plays a big part in Good as we hear songs and instrumental pieces playing in the professor’s head, accompanying significant moments in his life. It is odd to see a silent piano; note sheets spread on the floor in one corner and records in another but hear music coming from nowhere. This detachment of the sound from the source causes on an uncanny feeling of detachment from reality, a suspension in somebody else’s fantasy.
At times we hear “real” people coming through, like Halder’s Jewish friend Maurice (Tim Spears). With his raising concerns for the lives of his family and himself, this joyful man becomes more and more desperate. The comedic relief, which Tim Spears hits strongly in the beginning by crawling and hiding behind the furniture as soon as he sees a Nazi officer, disperses quickly when the menace becomes more real. Halder pushes his friend away and occupies his family mansion where he brings his young lover, Anne (Caitlin Rose Duffy).
By choosing the immature student, Anne, over his struggling with neuroses wife, Helen (Valerie Leonard), not only does he follow his passion but also his desire to hide himself in a comfortable life. A life where his favorite music is humming his conscience to sleep and his beautiful young lover tells him that they are good people as long as they are good to each other. Halder’s attachment to material pleasures, no matter where they come from, the willingness to alter his principles to the point where they are turned upside down, and indifference to “the others” makes him a very real and timeless character with which we don’t sympathize but hopefully are able to identify ourselves.
Performances of Good are Tuesdays - Sundays at 7pm, and Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. The schedule varies - for exact days and times visit http://PTPNYC.org. Tickets are $35, $20 for students and seniors, and can be purchased online at http://PTPNYC.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111. For info visit http://PTPNYC.org, follow on Twitter at @ptpnyc, and Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/pages/Potomac-Theatre-Project-PTP/32709392256.