Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Deathwatch"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


by Jean Genet
directed by Lisa Hackman

Green Eyes Ö Michael Nurse
Lefranc Ö Amar Srivastava
Maurice Ö Geoffrey Parrish
The Guard Ö Paul Shafer

The trouble with Jean Genet today is that he is no longer shockable --- such topics as men loving and lusting amongst each other, especially those in prison, donít raise the same kind of eyebrows as they once did (even the anger emanating from Mr. Genetís THE BLACKS is different from the anger felt by African-Americans, today). Mr. Genetís first play DEATHWATCH is precisely that --- a deathwatch --- as cellmates Green Eyes, Georgie and Maurice await the day when Green Eyes is to be executed for killing a woman. While they wait, the trio endlessly shift their loyalties and rivalries, squabble over Green Eyeís unseen girlfriend, and attempt to dominate one another in a mutual hell akin to Mr. Sartreís NO EXIT --- Death comes to one of the men, unexpectedly. Even though DEATHWATCH is dated, it can still work if a production can capture the playís stink, the degradation and the cruel voluptuousness of waiting for Mr. Genetís poetry blooms best amidst garbage, maggots and manure. Will Act for Foodís production is rather tame but will do, for now: under Lisa Hackmanís direction, Mr. Genetís world is more of a rowdy night in an army barracks rather than Man returning to his primal state; apart from a genuinely erotic moment when Maurice strokes a tattoo on Green Eyeís bared midriff, the audienceís eyebrows remain firmly in place. (If you want the true Genet flavor, hunt down his uncensored film classic UN CHANT DíAMOUR which is sordid and brutal and beautiful --- your eyebrows will be given a workout, indeed.)

But come see this DEATHWATCH for its actors, each one memorable in his own right. I had last seen Michael Nurse nearly three years ago in the Ubiquity Stageís RIFF RAFF and remembered his weary, paternal warmth; said warmth is now mixed with a dangerous, rascally power for his Green Eyes and Mr. Nurseís impressive baritone is ideal for an Emperor Jones. Thrice now in the past few months have I seen Amar Srivastava as a snarling Other which has yet to grate on me as Mr. Srivastava puts his all into his villains even when he winds up shouting in a congested upper register; his Georgie is the type of man who is creepier when he smiles than when he scowls. Geoffrey Parrish, a recent acting graduate, is weirdly enchanting as Maurice, going from the kittenish to the ferrety in a hairís width. Two Decembers ago I saw Paul Shafer play the Mother role in a college production of Mr. Weillís THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS where he was an amusing, well-sung caricature; his immoral Guard is a smug, goofy Nobody trying to pass as a Somebody.

Not surprisingly, the Devanaughn Theatreís bricks make for a convincing prison cell and Ms. Hackmanís final tableau defies applause and curtain calls. Should you attend, bring along a non-perishable food item; Will Act for Foodís name comes from its taking donations to help out those in need.

"Deathwatch" (17 June - 2 July)
Devanaughn Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 499-1908

THE THEATER MIRROR, New Englandís LIVE Theater Guide