House Logo
Explore categories +

Albert Innaurato (#110 of 2)

Big Fish to Fry: Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale at Playwrights Horizons

Comments Comments (...)

Big Fish to Fry: Samuel D. Hunter’s <em>The Whale</em> at Playwrights Horizons
Big Fish to Fry: Samuel D. Hunter’s <em>The Whale</em> at Playwrights Horizons

On my grade school’s trip to an aquarium, I couldn’t understand how the whale didn’t sink from its own weight. I feel the same about Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale. The writing, design, even the lead actor are wrapped in heavy layers, both literal and symbolic. The play opens with 600-pound Charlie suffering what seems to be a heart attack, and then things take a turn for the worse: Barring some massive turnaround, Charlie’s got less than a week to live. Somehow, though, Davis McCallum’s production remains buoyant. This Whale floats.

As the days tick down through thick and not so thin, we wade through allusions to Moby Dick and Jonah, and every scene break brings sounds of crashing waves. But this is far from a crushing bore. Undercurrents of dry humor and wry emotion keep things bubbling along. The aforementioned cardiac episode occurs while Charlie’s watching Internet porn and fending off a visit from a door-to-door Mormon. One’s heart may sink a bit when the young Elder appears. Many of them have been knocking on stage doors these days and that’s far from the only common trope in use here. Charlie’s main goal is reconnecting with Ellie, the teenaged daughter he hasn’t seen since he came out of the closet when she was a toddler. We’ve seen countless family-reconciliation plays and lots of closed-off girls like Ellie, but even when The Whale wanders into heavily fished waters, it still comes up with fresh revelations and bracing truths.

The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya‘s Reed Birney

Comments Comments (...)

The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya’s Reed Birney
The Right Way: An Interview with Uncle Vanya’s Reed Birney

Just the mere announcement of a new production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at SoHo Rep, the venturesome Tribeca-based theater company, generated much excitement among New York theater aficionados; the quickly sold-out, initially six-week run is now extended through July 22. A century-old Russian classic is unusual programming for the Obie-award winning company best known as an incubator for contemporary work by emerging writers, but what makes this production noteworthy is the thrilling alignment of three of the brightest talents working in New York theater today: playwright Annie Baker, who adapted a new version of the text, director Sam Gold, and actor Reed Birney in the title role. The three previously worked together on Circle Mirror Transformation, Baker’s keenly observed and deeply felt 2009 drama about a group of people in an acting class. The 31-year-old playwright, whose work includes Body Awareness and Aliens, is one of the leading writers of her generation, while Gold, age 34, is one of the most sought-after directors in town. Birney may not be a marquee name, but he’s one of the finest actors working today in New York City theater. He started his career at age 22 playing the juvenile lead in Albert Innaurato’s Gemini, an Off Broadway hit which went on to enjoy a successful run on Broadway in the mid 1970s. More than three decades later, he experienced a career resurgence with his uncompromising performance in the 2008 New York premiere of Sarah Kane’s Blasted. In 2011, after a remarkable season in which he appeared in three new Off-Broadway plays (Kim Rosenstock’s Tigers Be Still, Adam Bock’s A Small Fire, and David West Read’s The Dream of the Burning Boy), the 57-year-old actor was awarded a special award from the Drama Desk for his body of work. We recently spoke with the actor about his career and his current role.