Harbinger Theatre, Albany, NY
Destroying David by Jason Odell Williams. Directed by Amy Hausknecht. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"I get to play God for a few hours."
"You" is the surviving partner of a marriage that melded bodies, souls and minds. "You" is a fine arts restorer. You has been obsessed with Michaelangelo's David since You was a college student on a year-off trip through Europe. This is who "You" is and "You" has a job and a mission or two and they all don't necessarily point in the same direction. In Harbinger Theatre's production of this new play "Destroying David." You's partner, named David, has recently died and the survivor is aching desperately and trying to come to grips with the situation. He's been hired as part of a team to save the 14-foot high statue from crumbling away - flaws in the stone are threatening to do just that. He decides that destroying this most perfect work of art will somehow compensate for his own, personal loss. Late one night he comes to terms with his needs and his intentions, haunted by a quintet of ghosts known collectively as "Them."
Chris Foster plays "Them." Patrick white plays "You." That is almost too much information to disclose except that the program openly discloses this. The one-act play takes less than 75 minutes and it fills your day with memorable characters, facts, information and emotions. The David existed, seemingly, within the block of marble the artist was given to work with. He released the statue from inside the stone and it has stood in Florence for hundreds of years, just being, just enthralling the world. As White's "You" explains the flaws in the work and the need to salvage the statue it becomes clear that saving David means more to him than meets the eye and, similarly, the urge to demolish the historic image becomes as much an obsession as the idea of preserving it. The play channels us in and out of "You's" mind with alacrity. Before the play ends we know "You" better than we know ourselves.
Chris Foster and Patrick White; Photo: Adam Wilson-Hwang.
This is what we need to know about "You." He could be you. A person suffering grief and never understanding life's quirks is set before us. He needs to say much and he says a lot but he rarely touches on that which he needs to talk about. Instead he concentrates on motives and the mean of achieving them. It is the ghosts of what came before that sustain him, keep him sane and safe: the sculptor Michaelangelo, a wordless caveman, a Scandinavian nurse named Svetlana, co-workers on the David Project. He conjures them and uses them to study his motives. All the while he wields his trusty sledge-hammer, a touch of reality.
His torment is palpable.
Patrick White; Photos: Adam Wilson-Hwang.
Chris Foster does a wonderful job as "Them"; each one wonderfully serves his/her purpose, including newly destroyed David. Patrick White rides the ups and downs of his growing neurosis with perfect exactitude. Twice he moved me to real tears.
Director Amy Hausknecht has done a beautiful job keeping the play alive and vivid, her actors in perfect formation as the ideas of desolation and desecration coalesce.
This is a play of thoughts brought into the verbal world just as Micihaelangelo's David was brought out of the marble. The Harbinger Company's technical crew have also done well by this play, especially sound designer Joshus Horowitz and Stage Manage Lisa Bryck and her staff. Sometimes I think a play is extraordinary but this time it is the total experience that stands out as something special.
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Chris Foster; Photo: Adam Wilson-Hwang.
Destroying David produced by Harbinger Theater performs at Opalka Gallery, 160 New Scotland Road in Albany, NY through April 16. For information and tickets go to www.harbingertheatr.org or call 518-