Vincent River: No Kitchen, No Sink
Philip Ridley's new play Vincent River, a kitchen-sink drama without kitchen or sink, has some undeniable strengths. Ridley's text layers the gay-bashing murder at the play's core with dense metaphoric significance, drawing delicate connections between the social surveillance that stunts lives in London's East End, the literal and figurative deafnesses that isolate one person from another, and the ravages of Vietnam and the Blitz. TFP's production at 59E59 Theaters, part of the annual Brits Off-Broadway series, features a starkly effective design by Harry Scott that evokes the circumscribed world of the play with a painted-over window and shabby wallpaper. It also offers performances by two enormously proficient actors: Deborah Findlay as the victim's mother and Mark Field as the teenage boy somehow involved in discovering the body. But Ridley may have set himself an impossible challenge in the play's construction: The exact nature of the relationship between these two strangers is the mystery that drives Vincent River. Both text and performances, though, stutter over this problem throughout the first half: As the production works to establish the connections between the pair, it too often lapses into formulaic rhetoric and self-conscious theatricality. Only in the thoroughly imagined climactic scene, given a bravura spin by Field, does the piece fully register the depths of its characters' grief.
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