Friday, September 14, 2018

Stop / Over review: A light-flickering escape to New York unsure of what it's fleeing from

In Gary Duggan's promenade play, two reunited friends try to recreate the abandon of their student days over 48 hours. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi.

Chocolate Factory, Dublin Fringe Festival 
Sep 12-23

My review of Stop / Over by Gary Duggan coming up just as soon as I sip on my Masochist ...

“It’s up to you, New York." That lyric from the musical film New York, New York, acknowledging the city as a character in itself, could have easily instructed Gary Duggan’s play - a promenade drama that pans almost longingly across fluorescent city interiors and exteriors.

The script goes the distance in director Nicola Murphy’s spirited production for On The Quays. In a bold piece of casting, a stretch of New York is played by the industrial surroundings of the Chocolate Factory, transformed by Eoin Lennon’s inventive lighting to create headlight-flashing streets one moment, and the intimacy of a café the next.

Leading the way is a young Irish woman living in the city, given a deft performance by Ashleigh Dorrell. Reunited with an old friend, astutely played by Siobhán Callaghan, they try to recreate the abandon of their student days over 48 hours.

As they reminisce about their friendship, it becomes clear that this is the love that dare not speak its name, given the playful flirtations of a girlish coquette. Despite such openness, their desire seems endlessly suspended, making their frustration almost tantric.

But that unrequited affection will fade momentarily when, in a softly-lit bar, inner thoughts go unsaid. A rape survivor reveals her sense of shame. A lover is plagued by guilt for ending a relationship. Inevitably, their getaway will implode from feelings of self-blame.

Yet, for a play about breakout, this seems overly-controlled. Duggan’s characters have a tendency to speak aloud their actions (“I put my arm around you”. “I shrug it off”.), as if the script is trying to freeze the nuances of a fleeting encounter, but it overcrowds the audience with detail.

There’s something interesting here about a fast-moving romance that can’t outrun the past, but as the plot veers around drug hallucinations and unclear traumas, this light-flickering escape to New York seems unsure of what it’s fleeing from.

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