Island rhythms


By Ross Maxwell
Directed by Aimee Hayes
Vital Theatre Company
432 W. 42nd St. (212/592-0129)
Equity showcase (closes Oct. 2)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Croatoan is an intelligent, intriguing play. With an enchanting ensemble of five, it is a story about history, technology and waiting. At times it feels a little too existential, since not much happens, but overall the show kept the attention and effectively delivered some clever dialogue.

The plot follows Trudy (Alyssa Simon) and her 13-year-old daughter, Zoe (Sara Barnett), who live on an island in North Carolina. As a storm approaches, their handyman, Jarrel (Brennan Roberts) begins to strengthen the house. The audience soon learn about Zoe’s father, who has run out on the women. He sends Zoe (who worships him) postcards with tiny handwriting describing important historical events.

Soon, two men enter the scene. First there is Trudy’s man of the night -- a hitchhiker named Avery (Chad Beckim). Second, there is a student of ethnomusicology staying there to study some old songs from an adjacent island -- Clinton (Sekou Campbell), whom Zoe has an obvious crush for. As the storm increases, so does the tension in the house.

Although little occurs during the show, there is much witty wordplay and intelligent insults. Also, there is a slew of sexual innuendo. There are some well-crafted and structured soliloquies, as well. That said, the show meanders and digresses a bit too much in the second act, and the actual point needs clarification and focus.

The cast was exceptional, especially the women. Alyssa Simon became the inappropriately dramatic and explosive mother. She donned an affectation of selfishness and apathy, but underneath it all, she cared terribly. Sara Barnett embodied the bratty, belligerent Zoe. She was a convincing teenager, animated with awkwardness and anxiety.

Aimee Hayes’s direction kept the show moving. The staging made good use of the small stage. Jane Shepard’s minimal set served the show well, although it took a long time to change from scene to scene. The lights, by James Bedell, created the ambience of a storm. Jessica Trejos’s costumes were plain but effective.

Thus, Croatoan had many reasons to see it. It might not all come together enough at the end, but the cast and smart script made it worthwhile to go to.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh