Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 16, 2018

REVIEW: Playhouse on Park, “The Revisionist”

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through April 29, 2018
by Shera Cohen

The playwright’s name Jesse Eisenberg, an Academy Award nominated actor, is the audience draw to “The Revisionist.” While I have never seen this man on the big screen, Eisenberg should recognize that his talent is acting, not writing.

Photo by Curt Henderson
It is extremely difficult to separate the text from the performance in this review, except to say that the protagonist, an elderly Polish woman (Maria), holds the play together as best as she can. Portrayed by POP newcomer Cecelia Riddett, the actress remains onstage throughout the play – thank goodness. Her acting skills and her character are equally matched.

The plot is thin. The theme is confusing. Is this a comedy? A drama? The audience is uncomfortable laughing. Maria warmly welcomes her American cousin, ersatz writer David, into her modest home. David is young, and the audience hopes to see the development of a relationship between the two. Carl Howell creates a one-dimensional David. Again, I blame the playwright, far more than Howell, for his depiction of a brash, selfish, arrogant SOB. Maria remains stalwart as the hostess, until a breaking point. My breaking point, however, came a lot earlier than Maria’s in this all-too-long story, sans intermission.

To some degree, Riddett fleshes out Maria’s background and motivation. Howell is given no impetus to develop David into a human being – even an unlikeable one.

Thank goodness for Sebastian Buczyk as taxi driver/handy man Zenon. In his small role, Buczyk develops the only living character onstage.

Several individual points, perhaps generally unnoticed in other plays, were literally very loud and clear; i.e. the constantly ringing of a Maria’s telephone, David’s elongated vomiting scene, and spoken Polish that seemed to go on forever (all of which was “foreign” to the audience).

Back to comedy or drama. Inconsistencies and confusion were plentiful; i.e. the year was 2007 and the television news reported about Bush and the Iraqi war, at the same time Maria and David discuss text messaging on cell phones.

The tasks for director Sasha Bratt were many. The first task for POP – otherwise, an exceptional theatre with well-chosen seasons – was to choose another play.