Review by Tulis McCall
27 Jan 2010
Ka-pucketa-pucketa-pucketa-pucketa. That is the sound this play makes. It is at once a bit boring and very reassuring.
Sam Shepard is in his 60’s now and so are his characters. No longer able to wrestle each other to the ground they way they used to, or destroy an entire living room, these two are content to chew on the scenery of the past. It’s grit and melancholy included.
Somewhere in the Midwest, we think, Ames (Stephen Rea) lives in banishment. It is a sort of cabin he has had for awhile, but now that his woman has tossed him out because of a suspected infidelity, it is home. He has slipped down into a deep dark place, and the only person he can call on is an old friend, Byron (Seán McGinley). The two are sitting on the barren back porch at noon, sipping Woodford Reserve Bourbon.
As Ames unburdens himself, Byron listens, weighing each woe against his own troubles. Phrases are bats in flight. Ideas swoop through. Some are snatched out of the air, some make it through without a scratch. The ones that are caught are given a once-over that inevitably ends up with the thought being picked down to the bone and often slammed up against the back wall of the house for good measure.
It is a slow deliberate dance of two friends in no hurry now that one has traveled thousands of miles on a bus to help the other. How he is going to help hasn’t been specified. They haven’t seen each other in decades and now seem to be teaching themselves how to talk to one another, one phrase at a time. Girls on bikes, the history of the moon – four thousand million years old, Derby days, – foresight, hindsight – you know the drill. These are two guys who don’t need to “go do something”. The sound of their voices is enough to keep them together. They can engage and annoy each other at the same time without lifting anything more than their drinking arm. Of course because it is Shepard, sitting and drinking, when left to fester, will become tussling and shooting. Mistakes are made, pride is swallowed, lies told and secrets revealed. The friendship is stretched like a mesh bag while these two guys expurgate the detritus of their lives.
The production in many ways reflects the story of the play. It is uneven. As good as these two actors are, they appear out of sync. At times they are Beckett like in their choreography, but how many times can two men synchronize sips of bourbon and keep it interesting? Occasionally they seem to be in different plays, not quite listening to one another or anticipating the other. This is surprising because the two have performed this play together in Dublin. In addition, the “ground” aground the cabin is a soft spongy material to aid them when they land on their caboose, but it could easily have been covered in grass so as not to be so obvious.
And finally, without any guidance from the text, we discover that the two men have been talking, not for 90 minutes, but for 17 hours. From noon one day to 5AM in the morning the next. One minute they are nattering away. The next minute an entire day and night have passed and they are looking at the earth’s shadow on the moon. That’s a stretch even for Shepard and leaves us scrambling for traces of logic at the play’s conclusion when we should be keyed in to these two men’s windup.
Here is what I think – wait a couple of weeks and then treat yourself to this show. By that time these two good-old-boys will have settled themselves into those chairs just fine, the Ka-pucketa-pucketa-pucketa-pucketa won’t run out of gas, and the tales will be the richer for it.
What the popular press said...
"It’s neither as funny nor as fierce as it needs to be."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Guided by director Jimmy Fay, both (actors) sink fully into their roles and are very entertaining."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
Frank Scheck for New York Post
"Weirdly compelling two-hander."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Not terribly compelling."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Slight story stretches for barely 80 minutes. Yet the dialogue is tangy and twangy."
Michael Kuchwara for Associated Press
"Should score with Shepard fans."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...