Loners With Interest

And then there's Goethals. I don't know how old she was when she first knocked me out, at Second Stage in 1991. Here she is, a decade later, believable as a 17-year-old, stage center for most of a 100-minute event, with never a false move or an instant's excess. Her work is seamless: convincing, touching, and apparently effortless. She's a pylon supporting the script in its frequent sags, an angel floating on its surface when it lifts. Lynne Meadow's unobtrusive direction surely has something to do with her success.


The hero of John Kelly's performance piece Brother, another loner, meets someone, falls in love, loses him, and mourns him. Then he mourns Matthew Shepard. Then he meets, but is separated from, a new love. If this sounds a little familiar and a little desultory, there are times when it seems to be both. Built on a four-song cycle by Kelly and David Del Tredici, who accompanies him on piano, the piece incorporates texts by two contemporary poets, plus Del Tredici's lovely folklike setting, from Final Alice, of Lewis Carroll's acrostic epigraph to Alice in Wonderland. (You may wonder why the emphatically gay hero of Brother would want to spell out the name "Alice Pleasance Liddell" in verse.) It also incorporates video designs by Kelly, a chunk of found video, and an elaborate scene-and-costume change accompanied by a c&w soundtrack before the "Matthew Shepard" song.

Dallas Roberts and Nicole Pasquale in Nocturne: The accidental tsuris
photo: Joan Marcus
Dallas Roberts and Nicole Pasquale in Nocturne: The accidental tsuris

Details

Nocturne
By Adam Rapp
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
212-460-5475

Blur
By Melanie Marnich
Manhattan Theatre Club
131 West 55th Street
212-581-1212

Brother
By John Kelly, music by David Del Tredici
P.S. 122
150 First Avenue
212-477-5288

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A lot of the pieces, unsurprisingly, are beautiful in themselves. Even shaven-headed and buffed up, Kelly's panicked-Pierrot presence, all haunting eyes and flesh-tingling countertenor tones, has lost none of its charisma. Del Tredici, as both accompanist and composer, poses him unstinting demands, some of which are excessive: In a small space like P.S. 122, the thundering piano and mic'd voice don't bring out the best in Kelly's sound. Both Kelly's lyrics—helter-skelter wordstreams—and Del Tredici's music, with its insistent ostinati and crashing polytonal chords, have a self-obsessed romanticizing quality that may, depending on your predilections, either sweep you along or make you feel pushed aside. The interruptions of the cycle—by the visual elements, by Kelly's self-choreographed moves, by breaks in tone when he chats like a cabarettist—shatter the evening's coherence rather than enriching its texture. I felt emotionally hooked only once, when Kelly, lying on a strip of green cloth meant to represent the grass above his dead lover's grave, sang repeatedly, "I'm here oh I'm here." Still, both men are artists who know that it's always better to take a resplendent risk than a tiny one: That way, even if you fall flat, what the audience remembers is the splendor of the effort, not the flatness of the result.

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