Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Attic Space by Nigel O'Hearn, Palindrome Theatre at the Salvage Vanguard, December 14 - 22

AustinLiveTheatre reviewThe Attic Space Nigel O'Hearn Palindrome Theatre Austin TX

by Michael Meigs

Nigel, this is stupid stuff. There, now I've said it.

You and your friends of Palindrome have made arresting, sometimes astounding art in the three years that you promised yourselves for the experiment after your graduation from the theatre program at St. Ed's. 

You have shown yourself to be an impressive actor and promoter of our dear, beloved and commercially moribund art of live theatre, gathering award nominations and recognition along the way.

You made contacts with some Austin's best in the field, many of them teachers -- Ev Lunning, with whom you worked in the Ar Rude Actors's Equity project of McNeil's A Long Day's Journey into Night directed by Lucien Douglas, and Babs George in that fine Cherry Orchard by Breaking String where appropriately enough you portrayed the eternally yearning and optimistic student Trofimov. 

You were a memorable drifter challenging a stolidly bourgeois Jude Hickey in Albee's At Home at the Zoo, with Robin Grace Thompson as his wife. You crafted a pungent Hedda Gabler last year by reworking someone's literalist pony translation from the original, staged it with Robin successfully here and at the Edinburgh Fringe, and caught the eye of the flattered Norwegians.

Before approaching its three-year expiration date, Palindrome's artists and sometime provocateurs have furnished Austin with fine stagings of classics. I wish I could have seen them all. I missed Babs with Harvey Guion in Arthur Miller's All My Sons last summer, Dario Fo's Accidental Death of An Anarchist, and Sarah Ruhl's Melancholy Play. I did see, and will long remember, Beckett's End Days with Jarrett King, Gabriel Luna and Helyn Rain Messenger.

You've been gracious and forthcoming throughout all of this. I still have a twinge of bad conscience about not recognizing you immediately two years ago when you greeted me in the lobby at the Mary Moody Northen Theatre at the opening night for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where Babs was Martha and Ev was George. I was glad to get a close-up rehearsal view of the revised Hedda before the departure for Edinburgh last year, and I was flattered to be invited along with other theatre scriveners to last weekend's advance staging for the press of your work The Attic Space, with Babs and Ev. It was a remarkable and unexpected opportunity to mingle briefly before the show with Elizabeth Cobbe of the Austin Chronicle, Jillian Owens and Cate Blouke of the Statesman and newcomer Jeff Davis of

The Attic Space seems grossly derivative to me. You've brought your two characters Harold and Harriet together in George Marsolek's claustrophobic and dimly lit attic space that contains the stored detritus of their lives. The dialogue is a similar in style to that of Beckett, full of ellipses and references to shared but unrevealed events and relationships. Harriet is high strung but disconnected; Harold is restrained, patient and long-suffering. She insists on staying in the attic amongst the boxes, trunks and discarded furniture. She's searching for something but doesn't know what that is. Harold urges her to come back downstairs. The dialogue suggests that they feel the suppressed terror of advanced age even though these two actors are plainly in their flourishing middle age.

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