The Barrow Group Theatre Company is presenting the premiere of John Ahlinï¿½s Gray Area. This group is the home to many leading New York theatre artists. Their new production is billed as the last great battle of the American Civil War.
Gray Area begins when New Yorkï¿½s leading drama and social critic decides to retire. We learn that he is one of those tough critics that rarely says or writes a nice word about any show or person who is performing on Broadway. He spends his final broadcast firing funny salvos at a variety of targets. His final barrage is against Civil War re-enactors. He discovers that he has picked the wrong fight when three hardcore re-enactors take serious offense and kidnap him. It is a full out black-white, blue gray, blue-red raging debate by characters who are ironically, the most colorful because they come from the opposite sides of the spectrum.
Keith Jochim plays Farragut who is the retiring critic. His rich speaking voice makes you believe that he could be a critic and radio commentator. John Ahlin as Keith, Aaron Goodwin as Horse, and Taylor Ruckel as Randall the trio of Civil War re-enactors do a good job in each of their roles. When we first meet them they seem to be the very definition of a ï¿½good old boyï¿½. However, by the end of the play they have convinced us that they have good hearts and brains. However, at the risk of my being perceived as the critic in the play I cannot recommend this play.
The production is directed by Seth Barrish. Mr. Barrish has worked as an actor, director, composer and musical director for 25 years. The play seems to have gotten away from both the director and producer. The first act is somewhat funny although there are many moments that miss or are stepped on by another actor. The second act is a long series of arguments and head games regarding the conflict between the North and South. Some of the issues debated are slavery, the confederate flag, southern gentlemen, reconstruction and the people who ran the war. The puddle of ideas and conflicts presented in the second act goes on too long before we are presented with the solution to the conflict. The first and second act does not really fit together. Some very good work has been done by Markas Henry. His clever set and excellent costume design have done an excellent job in matching the situation. I particularly liked the way he integrated the radio station setting into his forest scene. The lighting by Lauren Parish and the sound design by Stefano Zazzera are good considering the size of the theater. The problem here is that some good acting and good technical execution could not overcome a shaky, wordy and long second act.