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Željko Ivanek and Sarah Steele make a powerful team in Greg Pierce’s beautifully done SLOWGIRL (photo by Erin Baiano)

Claire Tow Theater
LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater
150 West 65th St.
Extended through August 5, $20

Lincoln Center has inaugurated its new low-price, 112-seat Claire Tow Theater, which sits above the Vivian Beaumont and Mitzi E. Newhouse, with the world premiere of Greg Pierce’s wonderful two-character Slowgirl. After being blamed for a high school tragedy back home, seventeen-year-old Becky (Sarah Steele) is sent off to spend a few days with her reclusive uncle Sterling (Željko Ivanek), a divorced lawyer who has been living by himself in a shack in the jungles of Costa Rica for nine years. Whereas Becky is outgoing and seems to never be able to shut up and relax, Sterling chooses his words far more carefully, as if each one pains him to say out loud, while wincing at Becky’s openness and questionable language. The two very different people eventually bond over smoothies and iguanas as Becky talks about what happened to her somewhat off classmate known as Slowgirl, who was seriously injured at a graduation party, and Sterling discusses the events that ultimately led him into the jungle.

The reclusive Sterling (Željko Ivanek) is forced to face some dark secrets in SLOWGIRL (photo by Erin Baiano)

Emmy winner and multiple Tony nominee Ivanek, most well known for recurring roles on such television series as Homicide, Damages, and Oz in addition to stage appearances in such shows as The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial and Brighton Beach Memoirs, is mesmerizing as Sterling, a pent-up bundle of nerves who can barely get the words out of his mouth, while Steele (All-American, Russian Transport) is delightful as Becky, a fast-talking teen with no filter, spitting out whatever’s on her mind. Rachel Hauck’s main set, Sterling’s open-air shack, rises at one point to reveal a labyrinth Sterling built to help him silently concentrate and focus, something Becky seems incapable of doing. Leah Gelpe’s sound design includes animal and bird noises that make the audience feel like they’re in the middle of the jungle, while Anne Kauffman’s (This Wide Night, Thugs) direction seamlessly weaves the characters and story together. Pierce (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) has written a compelling, intelligent, splendidly nuanced hundred-minute drama that is filled with small surprises and little touches that serve as a terrific introduction to Lincoln Center’s intimate new theater, which is dedicated to works by emerging playwrights, directors, and designers, with tickets for all productions only $20.

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