Too far down the road

Down the Road

By Lee Blessing
Directed by Alma Adams
Dancing Dog Productions
Theatre Row Studios
412 West 42nd St. Studio 4W (591-0628)
Non-union production (closes Nov. 14)
Review by Sheila Mart

Down the Road is a three-character presentation which, in spite of its rather staccato film-like technique of assembling short scenes, is an absorbing drama. It concerns a subject that nobody really wants to confront - the darkness that often lurks in the human soul - but that one is inevitably drawn to. The piece opens in a motel room on a young married couple, Iris and Dan Henniman, writers whose specialty is biographies of criminals. Now they are preparing to interview a killer/rapist, Bill Reach, who has been sentenced to life without parole for having committed the most heinous crimes imaginable - at least 19, as he unemotionally admits. While Iris and Dan are interviewing Bill in jail (most of the time individually), gathering information for their book about possibly the most sadistic psychopath ever to exist, Bill selectively feeds them information (about the details of the killings of his female victims), because, as he admits, he is going to write his own book.

The story, told more like a documentary, sets up an interesting dichotomy - of hope versus hopelessness - when the writers reveal their eventually successful attempt to procreate, as against Bill's sinking into the uncontrollably dark abyss of nothingness. Inevitably, some of the horror of the subject the writers are investigating seeps into and challenges certain aspects of their private lives.

The writing is excellent, except for the somewhat trite opening scene-but then maybe that was intentional. There was some visual muddling of fantasy scenes, which did not completely work in a theatrical setting-on film, it could have. For an intermissionless piece (it is hard to call it a "play"), which it has to be, it is about five to ten minutes too long.

All the actors did a memorable job, skillfully developing their characters, especially in relationship to each other. Jeff Palisin (Bill Reach) gave such an impressive performance, making all the right choices to make him truly scary. Karma Tiffany (Iris Henniman) was equally effective in producing all the levels of her character, although at times she was somewhat mannered. David Stamper (Dan Henniman) was most commendable in a rather difficult role.

The direction was effectively taut and consistent with the demands of the short scenes.

The lighting, uncredited, was somewhat pedestrian. Had it been more fluid and imaginative, it would have enhanced the drama even more.

Costumes (also unaccredited) were adequate.

The sets, depicting the motel room and the jail, were skeletal but sufficient: a bed and a table and two chairs respectively.

Sound effects and opening music were pertinent.
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart