One of the best plays I saw last year was That Poor Dream, a modern take of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations by The Assembly, one of the best young artist collectives in New York. Well, that company has struck again, and their new production, I Will Look Forward To This Later, is theatrical magic.
Currently playing as part of the New Ohio Theatre's Ice Factory Festival, I WIll Look Forward To This Later was commissioned as a part of an archive residency. Those roots show in audio clips played between scenes, in which the audience hears interviews with some great theater artists, including Andre De Shields and Judith Malina.
Like with That Poor Dream, however, the play's meditations nicely coalesce together around a compelling plot, in this case the story of a recently departed author and the friends and family he has left behind him. A coffin is the centerpiece of Nick Benacerraf's wildly imaginative set, at first setting an ominous mood, but then transforming comically into... well, you'll just have to see it!
An inter-generational cast performs the play, which explores issues of mentorship, be it nurturing, exploitive, or a bit of both. Edward Bauer and Ben Beckley portray two very different sons of the same man, reacting to their father's fame and talent in opposite ways. Emily Louise Perkins plays the great man's mistress, but if we think we know what was going on with their May-December romance, the play has a few surprises for us.
Joining these three regular company members of The Assembly are Linda Marie Larson as the both sinned-against and sinning widow of the novelist, Vinie Burrows as a sculptor who molds more than just clay, and James Himelsback, who is billed as "The Man in the Overcoat" but is quickly identifiable as a visitor from the Great Beyond.
The website for the Ice Factory describes the play as "Kabuki-inspired" but other than an Asian influenced set, there is little that ties the play directly to non-Western theater. One possible exception is the appearance of remembered characters in a robe that has an air of sacred vestments about it.
I Will Look Forward To This Later is playing Friday and Saturday at 7:00 at the New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street. Try to make it, but if you miss this production, it will hopefully be back in the spring!