Friday, November 7, 2008

The Transparency of Val

Friday Nov 7 & Friday Nov 14, 2008
By Stephen Belber
Directed by John Ortiz
Featuring Carlo Alban* (11/7), Liza Colón-Zayas*, J. Eric Cook, John Doman*, Sarah Nina Hayon*, Sandie Luna*, Nyambi Nyambi* & Michael Stuhlbarg* (11/14)


  1. I saw this 11/7, and can't imagine a different actor playing Val than Carlo Alban. I almost went back to see it again out of curiousity. The Val character would be a disaster cast wrong...he risks being a sort of sociopolitically symbolic Forrest Gump. Carlo Alban managed to play the role as an innocent, rather than as someone "special" in a bad way.

    I had mixed feelings about this one. It's funny, witty, and clever, but sometimes too conceptual and trying too hard to be profound (what with characters named "New Deal", etc) loses some of the richness that less conceptual work can bring. It needs a boatload of editing.

    On the other hand, I like seeing work that's challenging and thought-provoking, even if I'm on the fence about whether I really enjoyed it.

  2. I agree with the above comment... the play does need substantial editing; the episodic structure (which was really evocative when chunked up in the right portions) ended up sagging under the weight of some sections of slack, unneeded dialogue. At the same time, the very moving end seemed to rush up a bit fast and not linger; the lead up to which could be expanded so that the emotional climax is built up to, and kept onstage long enough to really hit home. Basically, with some sculpting that really defines what parts of the sweeping story are ornamental detail and which are meat-and-potatoes plot event, this play will no doubt be unique, thought-provoking, and deeply affecting.

    Finally, I also agree that Carlo Alban was pitch perfect in the title role, as was the actress who played Val's longtime girlfriend who becomes a man temporarily (the name of whom escapes me). The minimalist directorial treatment (including the simple live percussion) and excessive double-casting also worked really well to portray the play as a kind of fable; this doesn't seem to be one that needs the kitchen sink.

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