Corrections or additions?
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
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
nightmare "Reckless," and the brilliant Hollywood story,
Dying Gaul." In this context, two of Lucas’ most horrifying,
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.
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
responsive Hush. Linda’s pronounced fear of flying prompts her
chatter that quickly segues into a narrative confession. This
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
from a 15-year prison term, starts proselytizing, trying to get Linda
to accept Jesus by quoting lengthy passages from the Bible.
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
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
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
by medication, his faith, and his belief in the inner voices he has
heard since he was teenager. Harbour and Julianne Nicolson are
in their supporting roles. Three stars.
— Simon Saltzman
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