Review by Tulis McCall
February 23, 2017
For the first few minutes of this extraordinary play, Marin Ireland rushes through the text and uses some old saws of expression that feel like leftovers from other productions. Luckily this does not last long, and soon Ms. Ireland is not only in full control, she has chosen a direction to take and is unhesitant about leading us to her destination. We are in good hands.
I give nothing away when I tell you that this play is based on the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012. Nor that Ms. Ireland plays a single mother whose son was killed on that day. That is where the predictable trail begins and ends. Where writer Martín Zimmerman and director Leigh Silverman guide the story has a depth and stunning resonance that reaches way beyond the internal place you use as a boundary line between you and the world out there.
As a single mother, the Woman (as she is called) has no resources on which to call when the unthinkable happens. Neighbors are well meaning but short of stamina. She does not fit into the mold of a grieving parent because the father of her son came from a donor bank. A sibling is too far away. She has no real friends because she is an insular person who lived in the sunshine that came from her son's smile. That gone, life is dark indeed.
She is, however, no pushover. Rather than fading into the dark she takes the opposite track and seeks out information in the only place she can find it - on a shooting range. As she comes back into the social fabric of her fellow mourners, the new relationship with the same type of gun that killed her boy remains under cover.
This is a character aware of her own every move. She calculates and measures life by the centimeter as she moves among the people who have taken charge of the legalities of this grieving process. She is detached but still on the razor edge of what passes for sane.
As the play progresses Ms. Marin transforms from a kind of cocky teacher, who takes on all comers, to a nearly translucent being who is kept alive by nothing more than the breath that sustains her. It is a development made exquisite by Jen Schriever's lighting design. Like a flame, this Woman could disappear at any moment, and she seems to be toying with that possibility as she brings her tale home. Furthermore, she knows that if she did choose to vanish, she would do it on the exhale.
"Marin Ireland is a delicate conduit for raw emotions. Watching her deliver the hourlong monologue 'On the Exhale,' Martín Zimmerman’s carefully wrought study of a mother undone by loss, you half expect her to crack and shatter before your eyes."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Ireland's thrumming voice makes the short-story-cum-soliloquy slip through our defenses despite its unlikelihoods; her lulling alto hypnotizes the listener, so it might not be till later that you realize how the text was so wide of its mark."
Helen Shaw for Time Out New York
"Ireland delivers a superbly restrained performance in this taut, powerful piece."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
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