Eno at his most illuminating
By Sarah Norris
In the fifth and final play in Will Enos new collection, Oh, the Humanity and Other Exclamations, a nameless character steps onstage and is asked to identify himself. Youre probably going to laugh, the young man in torn blue jeans says, But, Im the beauty of things. He takes a step closer to the audience and continues: Just to let you know, I dont possess any secret knowledge or any glimpse into anything.
Taken on its own, that line almost becomes a prophecy for Enos very particular style of storytelling. With 2003s Pulitzer-nominated one-man show, Thom Pain (based on nothing), the Brooklyn playwright established himself as an inspired voice of dramatic existentialism one part wildly entertaining bourgeois depression and the other an unmitigated explosion of anguish and gaping loneliness.
Averaging 15 minutes, each play reveals a vignette hewn from the loneliness that compels these characters to grasp for connection. Behold the Coach, in a Blazer, Uninsured features a single, eponymous character (Brian Hutchison) as the beleaguered coach hosting a press conference at the end of a losing season. His monologue conveys his profound heartache and sense of personal loss. One night in a grocery store, he says, he found himself staring at his reflection in a freezer, realizing, Youre not having a bad day this is just what you look like, now. This is who the years are making you.
Among the many remarkable aspects of Enos writing is the seamlessness of his humor, characters and themes, which thread together with perfect and exacting subtlety. Eno and director Jim Simpson are supported by the excellent acting of Hutchison and Marisa Tomei (who is replaced by Christina Kirk Jan. 15). In Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rain, the actors appear on opposite sides of the small stage, squinting toward the audience. Each of them is making a dating video, in which they describe themselves, and what it is they desire in a partner. Sometimes, you wish you were dead, Hutchison says, but youll probably die wishing you could live.
Youre looking for me, Tomei says. Someone like me. Ive been described as The Girl Next Door, by neighbors.
At their best, Enos writing, along with Hutchisons performance, are nothing short of revelatory. And then, just as one decides that it cant get any better, or more intense, the drama recedes, replaced by the most pedestrian of situations. After pleading for true love on his video, Hutchisons character asks, Is there a little light thats supposed to come on?
OH, THE HUMANITY AND OTHER EXCLAMATIONS. Written by Will Eno. Directed by Jim Simpson. Extended through Feb. 2 at The Flea, 41 White St., betweenBroadway & Church, 212-352-3101, theflea.org.