At first, at least if you haven’t read any press-release synopses (and I tend not to, just to avoid spoilers and experience a new play as newly as I can), you’re not sure what to expect of Slowgirl, Greg Pierce’s new play at the likewise new Lincoln Center Theater space, the Claire Tow theatre, a small house above the Vivian Beaumont. When it opens, teenage Becky (Sarah Steele) has come to visit her reclusive, milquetoasty uncle Sterling (Zeljiko Ivanek) in his open house in the jungle outside a small town in Costa Rica. She’s come to get some temporary refuge from what I’ll only refer to here as “serious trouble”; he’s there because his own demons drove him to seek solitude. There’s enough laughter in their initial encounter to make the characters engaging…but no so much that you’re secure that the situation won’t somehow devolve into one of those distasteful scenarios in which an innocent is unwittingly thrown to a predator. And I’m not sure whether or not that sense of unease works in the play’s favor.
But I can tell you, it comes as a decent relief to realize that what Mr. Pierce has in mind is something quite other, and with lots of agreeable precedent. This is one of those two-hander dramas in which two disparate, damaged people of completely different POVs and dispositions are forced into prolonged contact via circumstance…and find themselves helping each other heal. As such, it’s not a bad little two-hander. I wouldn’t rate it as high as, say, Mass Appeal by Bill C. Davis, or Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhry (yes, I know, really a three-hander, but with its formula being the same, allow me to stretch a point), but it’s intriguing enough, for its intermissionless 90+ minutes, it gives two terrific actors some terrific stuff to do, it’s set in a nicely theatrical milieu, and if the trajectory of the story doesn’t go toward a hugely surprising conclusion, in terms of what truths there are to uncover, there are mild surprises enough along the way in terms of the characters’ reaction, adjustment and behavior. And really, that’s what a two-hander thrives on anyway.
All very nicely directed by Anne Kaufman. What’s not to like?
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