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This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the November 8,

2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

New York Review: `Stranger’

Notwithstanding Craig Lucas’ most commercial and

successful play, "Prelude to a Kiss," this more often than not

astonishing playwright cannot be accused of pandering to populist

entertainment. Despite Lucas’ talent and bent for delving into the

deepest recesses

of perverse human behavior, most of his plays demand the viewer be

as open and committed to facing aspects of their own true nature as

do his fictional characters. Many of us have watched Lucas’ complexly

tortured, always fascinating, characters wrestle with their baser

visceral instincts in such provocative plays as the fantastical

Christmas

nightmare "Reckless," and the brilliant Hollywood story,

"The

Dying Gaul." In this context, two of Lucas’ most horrifying,

deeply

scarred characters to date are realized in his unsettling new play,

"Stranger," at the Vineyard Theater.

The play opens in a plane on route from Philadelphia to Seattle.

Clutching

a Bible, Hush (David Strathairn) takes his seat, as motor-mouthed

Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) buckles herself in the seat next to him, while

vigorously pursuing a conversation with the polite, but only

tentatively

responsive Hush. Linda’s pronounced fear of flying prompts her

stream-of-consciousness

chatter that quickly segues into a narrative confession. This

confessional

includes her relationship with her parents, her bizarre marriage to

a feckless postman (David Harbour), and its chilling end, all of which

is dramatized in flashback.

At first, Hush, confessing that he has been just

released

from a 15-year prison term, starts proselytizing, trying to get Linda

to accept Jesus by quoting lengthy passages from the Bible.

Transformed

into a born-again Christian by his cell-mate, Hush also reveals to

her the reason for his incarceration. This equally chilling narrative

is also dramatized in flashback.

It would be wrong to divulge the past actions that have brought Linda

and Hush to this moment and to the place where their past and their

future are further entwined and sealed. This is a white-knuckle play

that will have you trying to figure out what lurks behind Linda’s

agenda, and why she suddenly switches gears and wants Hush to help

her straighten out her life. Going with Linda to a secluded mountain

cabin may be the biggest mistake of Hush’s life, or it may be the

answer to the deep-seated fears and the destructive legacy that have

kept both them in anguish for years. While Lucas’ play deals the

concept

that love and hate are flip sides of the same emotion, it is also

more frighteningly about the need to inflict suffering upon those

who have inflicted suffering upon us. Revenge may be sweet, but its

price may not be salvation.

Mark Brokaw, who directed "The Dying Gaul," offers taut

direction

and purposefully does not restrain Sedgwick from pulling on the taut

emotional strings of a woman who is as humorously wacky as she is

fiendishly psychotic. Sedgwick (who stole the show away from Helen

Hunt on Broadway in "Twelfth Night") gives an electrifying

performance — one that will make you think twice before striking

up a conversation with a stranger on a plane. More restrained yet

riveting is Strathairn, as Hush, whose bridled schizophrenia is

restrained

by medication, his faith, and his belief in the inner voices he has

heard since he was teenager. Harbour and Julianne Nicolson are

excellent

in their supporting roles. Three stars.

— Simon Saltzman

Stranger, Vineyard Theater, 108 East 15 Street, New York,

212-353-0303. $45.

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Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway and Off-Broadway

reservations

can be made through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

Other ticket outlets: Ticket Central, 212-279-4200; Ticketmaster,

800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music, and dance

call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing arts hotline.

The TKTS same-day, half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway

& 47) is open daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10

a.m. to 2 p.m. for Wednesday and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to

closing for Sunday matinees.


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