Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Partial Eclipse

Ages of the Moon

A play by Sam Shepard/
Directed by Jimmy Fay

Starring Stephen Rea, Sean McGinley

Performances January 12 to March 7, 2010

Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street



Not much of consequence happens in Ages of the Moon, Sam Shepard’s new two-hander that plays like a 75-minute comedy sketch. Long-time friends Ames and Byron, who haven’t seen each other in decades, are reunited when Ames feverishly calls Byron in the middle of the night imploring him to hop on a cross-country bus to see him.

Ames’ wife left him after discovering his sordid dalliance with a younger woman, and the entire play consists of the men sitting on Ames’ front porch talking about what’s happened to them in the intervening years, like an amusing shaggy-dog story Ames tells about Roger Miller. In a nod to earlier, better Shepard plays like Buried Child and A Lie of the Mind, violence—here it’s impotent violence—ensues when Ames’ temper gets the better of him and the men square off in an amusing battle that includes Ames threatening Byron with a rifle, only to take down the porch’s defective ceiling fan instead.

There are moments when Shepard’s dialogue includes a vivid image, as when Ames explains that his wife found the young lady’s phone number on his fishing map: he says, “Just scribbled her name and phone number. Right parallel with the Yellowstone River.” There’s also bawdy humor in Shepard’s portrait of old friends turned old men, as in the play’s opening when they debate using the word “minor” to describe a blow job. But Ages of the Moon is best as an actors’ vehicle, and director Jimmy Fay’s staging has two of the finest in Sean McGinley and Stephen Rea.

Rea—star of Shepard’s Kicking a Dead Horse last season—is the playwright’s current favored chronicler of the lost male soul, and he peculiarly plays the perpetually wounded Ames with a bizarre American accent that’s impossible to pinpoint. Still, this works for his slightly overdone portrayal of a man still fighting against perceived injustices done many moons ago. With his pencil moustache, goatee and shaggy hair, Rea’s a dead ringer for Bob Dylan; whether that entered into anyone’s thinking is unlikely, but since Shepard and Dylan worked together, it’s an intriguing possibility.

Sean McGinley beautifully plays Ames’ mostly straight man Byron with a flat American accent—both actors are Irish, don’t forget—that perfectly embodies this everyman, along with a welcome physicality during their bouts of fighting. He and Rea are also delightful during the many moments of silence that Shepard gives the men: those unspoken interludes are the play’s most affecting.

originally posted on timessquare.com

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