This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

STRAIGHT WHITE MEN

(photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

Stephen Payne, Josh Charles, Armie Hammer, and Paul Schneider are the title characters in Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men (photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

The Hayes Theater
240 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 9, $69 - $149
2st.com/shows

Through brilliant bits of added stagecraft, Young Jean Lee and director Anna D. Shapiro have taken Lee’s 2014 Public Theater presentation, Straight White Men, to the next level, transforming it into a more relevant, much funnier Broadway success. The first Asian-American woman to have a play on the Great White Way, Lee, who has previously explored such issues as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and body size and image, chooses the setup of an all-straight, all-white, all-male family gathering to celebrate Christmas together — but this time around she has some key twists. As you enter 2nd Stage’s Hayes Theater, which features a glittering shimmer curtain lit by many colors that instantly makes you question what you’re about to see, two flashily dressed people are walking through the crowd, stopping to talk to audience members, asking them whether they like the loud, female rap music or whether it is making them feel uncomfortable. They are known in the script as Person in Charge 1 and Person in Charge 2, played, respectively, by Kate Bornstein and Ty DeFoe. “In case you were wondering, neither of us is a straight white man,” Bornstein, who identifies as a nonbinary Jew from the Jersey Shore, says. DeFoe explains, “I’m from the Oneida and the Ojibwe nations. My gender identity is Niizhi Manitouwug, which means ‘transcending gender’ in the Ojibwe language.” Bornstein and DeFoe form a great comic duo playfully raising issues of comfort and privilege. “Tonight Kate and I are here to try something a little tricky,” DeFoe says. “As foreign as they are to us, we’re gonna try to find some understanding for straight white men. That’s what we wish everyone would do for us.” Lee is not out to skewer straight white men, which has become easy target practice these days, but nor is she out to praise or defend them.

(photo by Joan Marcus 2018

Kate Bornstein and Ty DeFeo are the people in charge of Straight White Men at the Hayes Theater (photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

The shimmer curtain parts to reveal a cozy living room with a couch, a small bar, wall-to-wall carpeting, and other standard elements, nothing fancy. Todd Rosenthal’s set is encased in a large frame, at the bottom of which is a gold plaque that reads: “STRAIGHT WHITE MEN.” It’s as if we’re looking at a human environment in a zoo or a modern historical painting. The inhabitants of this residence are widowed patriarch Ed (Stephen Payne) and his oldest son, Matt (Paul Schneider), a Harvard grad now doing part-time office work for a small charitable organization. Joining them for the holiday are sons Jake (Josh Charles), a divorced banker with kids, and Drew (Armie Hammer), a novelist and teacher who flits about from relationship to relationship. Boys will be boys, so they spend much of the ninety-minute intermissionless production acting out childhood rituals, good-naturedly razzing and annoying one another, and playing a board game called Privilege, adapted by their mother from Monopoly to teach them liberal values. When Jake draws an “Excuses” card, he reads, “‘What I said wasn’t sexist-slash-racist-slash-homophobic because I was joking.’ Pay fifty dollars to the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center.” Drew next picks up a “Denial” card, reading, “‘I don’t have white privilege because it doesn’t exist.’ Get stopped by the police for no reason and go directly to jail.” All four men later sing Matt’s high school adaptation of the title song from Oklahoma!, which includes such KKK-related lines as “Where we sure look sweet, in white bed sheets / with our pointy masks upon our heads!” The song is delightfully choreographed by Faye Driscoll, who has proved she can energize an audience in such works of her own as the Thank You for Coming trilogy and There is so much mad in me as well as Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show and We’re Gonna Die.

(photo by Joan Marcus 2018

Brothers Drew (Armie Hammer) and Matt (Paul Schneider) face off while their father (Stephen Payne) looks on in Straight White Men (photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

The narrative makes a sharp turn when Matt suddenly starts crying as the men eat their Chinese-food dinner. His brothers and father debate why the prodigal son has broken down, whether it’s because he is depressed about his personal situation, the state of the world, or something else. Matt even refers to himself as a “loser,” that most Trumpian of words. At the heart of the discussion is whether Matt has failed to live up to his potential, whether he has not taken advantage of everything white privilege had to offer him, although that phrase is not used specifically. Knowing that Broadway audiences are primarily white, Tony winner Shapiro (August: Osage County, This Is Our Youth) and two-time Obie winner Lee (The Shipment, Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven) don’t skewer the title characters, nor do they ask for any judgment. They just lay it all out there, although the motto for Lee’s theater company (2003-16) was “Destroy the audience.” The manipulations that have been added for the Broadway run are meant to make attendees feel on edge. If an audience member expresses to Bornstein (Gender Outlaw, Kate Bornstein Is a Queer and Pleasant Danger) or DeFoe (Masculinity Max, Clouds Are Pillows for the Moon) that the entrance music is too loud or offensive, for example, one of the options for them is to be led out to the lobby until the show starts; the music is not going to be changed or lowered for anyone.

In addition, at the start of each of the three acts, Bornstein and DeFoe guide some of the actors onto the stage and put them into place, as if carefully re-creating the past, when white men were at the top of the chain. But now the people in charge are nonbinary, gender fluid, able to identify themselves however they want. It’s almost as if the four white men are pawns in their hands, the power dynamic completely reversed; it might come as no surprise that Lee has been a dollhouse maven since she was a lonely Korean-American child, unable to make friends. The Broadway stage has become her dollhouse, where she can design her own world, word by word, character by character, scene by scene. In their Broadway debuts, Charles (The Antipodes, The Distance from Here), Schneider (Bright Star, Goodbye to All That), and Hammer (Call Me by Your Name, Sorry to Bother You) are fully believable as the siblings, whether goofing around or getting serious, never feeling like stereotypes onstage just to make a sociopolitical point. Payne (Superior Donuts, August: Osage County) is about a half beat behind the others, and the role-playing scene is still awkward. But this iteration of Straight White Men feels right at home on the Great White Way, tenderly looking at how things were, how they are, and perhaps how they will be.

FREE SUMMER EVENTS: JULY 29 – AUGUST 5

Beach volleyball tournament will be held on Coney Island on August 4

Beach volleyball tournament will be held on Coney Island on August 4

The free summer arts & culture season is under way, with dance, theater, music, art, film, and other special outdoor programs all across the city. Every week we will be recommending a handful of events. Keep watching twi-ny for more detailed highlights as well.

Sunday, July 29
SummerStage: Femi Kuti & Positive Force, Jupiter & Okwess, DJ Geko Jones, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, 3:00

Monday, July 30
Movies Under the Stars: The Incredibles (Michael Giacchino, 2004), Lower Highland Playground, Highland Park, Queens, 7:30

The Incredibles is screening for free

The Incredibles is screening for free in Highland Park on July 30

Tuesday, July 31
Strictly Tango, free tango lessons, Holley Plaza, Washington Square Park, 6:00

Wednesday, August 1
Carnegie Hall Citywide: Locos por Juana, Bryant Park Upper Terrace, 5:30

Thursday, August 2
New York Euripides Summer Festival Presents Suppliants, American Thymele Theatre, East River Park Amphitheater in John V. Lindsay East River Park, 6:00 (continues August 3, 6-7, and 9-10 at multiple venues)

Peter Wolf will play a free show at Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival on August 3

Peter Wolf will play a free show at Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival on August 3

Friday, August 3
Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Peter Wolf, Super Soul Banned, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30

Saturday, August 4
Brooklyn Beach Sports Festival: Beach Volleyball Tournament (8:00 am - 5:00 pm), Glow in the Dark Beach Volleyball (5:00), Coney Island, free with advance registration

Sunday, August 5
and
Saturday, August 4

INSITU Site-Specific Dance Festival, with simultaneous performances by César Brodermann and Sebastian Abarbanell, Alice Gosti, N E 1 4 Dance, Quilan ‘Cue’ Arnold, and Melissa Riker Kinesis Project in Hunters Point South Park, House of Ninja, Renegade Performance Group, Donofrio Dance Company, Sarah Chien, Sarah Elgart | Arrogant Elbow, and Cecilia Fontanesi Parcon NYC in Gantry Plaza State Park, Kate Harpootlian, Douglas Dunn + Dancers, AnA Collaborations, and Christopher Núñez in Queensbridge Park, and Sophie Maguire & Emma Wiseman, Javier Padilla & the Movement Playground, Khalifa Babacar Top, the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival, Fleuve | Espase danse, and JoAnna Mendl Shaw / the Equus Projects in Socrates Sculpture Park, 1:00 - 8:00

FIRE IN DREAMLAND

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Kate (Rebecca Naomi Jones) and Jaap Hooft (Enver Gjokaj) consider their future in Fire in Dreamland (photo by Joan Marcus)

Anspacher Theater, the Public Theater
425 Lafayette St. at Astor Pl.
Tuesday through Sunday through August 5, $50
212-539-8500
publictheater.org

Rinne Groff’s Fire in Dreamland is set in Coney Island, but unlike the famous Cyclone, this roller coaster of a play doesn’t have quite enough chills and thrills, twists and turns to ultimately satisfy. The play, having its New York premiere at the Public’s Anspacher Theater through August 5, is set primarily in 2013, shortly after Superstorm Sandy. Trying to find her way in life, Kate (Rebecca Naomi Jones) is walking along the Coney Island boardwalk when she encounters Jaap Hooft (Enver Gjokaj), a licorice-loving Dutch hunk who is making a documentary about the 1911 fire that destroyed the Dreamland amusement park and killed many trained animals. At first Kate wants nothing to do with the stranger, but soon they have hooked up and are working together on the project. Through it all, a man hiding in the shadows at the back of Susan Hilferty’s wood-centric set keeps snapping a clapperboard as each scene ends or slightly shifts in time like cinematic jump cuts. He turns out to be Lance (Kyle Beltran), Japp’s squirmy right-hand man who is jealous of Kate, both personally and professionally.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Lance (Kyle Beltran), Kate (Rebecca Naomi Jones), and Jaap Hooft (Enver Gjokaj) recall a horrific fire in New York premiere at the Public (photo by Joan Marcus)

Groff (The Ruby Sunrise, Saved) and director Marissa Wolf, in her New York debut, try to equate natural disasters with private upheavals and romance, but the characters never quite connect with one another or the story. Jones (Significant Other, Big Love) is very good as Kate, but a key plot twist is too mundane and conventional for a woman seeking some kind of self-empowerment. Gjokaj (As You Like It, Future Thinking) is too one-note as Japp, who may or may not be more of a con man; we don’t learn much about his filmmaking skills, as we never get to see any of the footage that Kate kvells over. And Beltran (The Amateurs, The Flick) is too whiny as Lance, who really just needs a big hug. The various ideas explored in the play, from love and loss to artistic creation and personal growth in the face of catastrophe, never quite come together in the choppy narrative, failing to grab on to a central conflict and purpose, weaving around the amusement park tragedy but not linking it to the rest of the story. There are nice moments and pleasant touches, and Jones is lovely to watch, but Fire in Dreamland peters out too soon.

THIS AIN’T NO DISCO

(photo by Ben Arons)

A talented cast goes back to the glamour days of Studio 54 in This Ain’t No Disco (photo by Ben Arons)

Atlantic Theater Company
Linda Gross Theater
336 West 20th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through December 24, $56.50-$111.50
866-811-4111
atlantictheater.org

Getting chosen to go past the velvet ropes and enter the hallowed halls of Studio 54 in the 1970s was like being part of the Rapture. “For what you are about to receive / may you be truly grateful / Who wants to go to heaven with me tonight,” Steve Rubell (Theo Stockman) declares in the world premiere musical This Ain’t No Disco, which opened tonight at the Atlantic. A group of desperate supplicants chant back at Rubell, “Let us in — let us sin.” But if theatergoers start lining up to get inside the Linda Gross Theater to see the new musical, it will be because of the reputation of the glitzy nightspot and the involvement of Stephen Trask, not because of the show itself, which turns out to be as superficial and simulated as the club itself. Trask, the creator, composer, and lyricist for the Obie- and Tony-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cowrote the music and lyrics of Disco with Angry Inch drummer Peter Yanowitz (the Wallflowers, Natalie Merchant) and the book with Yanowitz and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family); the two-and-a-half-hour show has its share of exhilarating moments, but the behind-the-scenes drama that drives the narrative is tepid and cold.

(photo by Ben Arons)

Sammy (Samantha Marie Ware) and Chad (Peter LaPrade) hope to make their dreams come true in This Ain’t No Disco at the Atlantic (photo by Ben Arons)

While a flamboyantly gay Rubell snorts coke, makes piles of money, and has a disagreement about a hat with the blond-haired, sunglass-wearing Artist (Will Connolly) — it’s not clear why the musical identifies Rubell by name but not Andy Warhol — a bunch of dreamers hope for stardom of various kinds, including experimental artist duo Landa (Lulu Fall) and Meesh (Krystina Alabado), who work the coat check; Forest Hills punk and drug-addicted single mother Sammy (Samantha Marie Ware), an alternate version of Jean-Michel Basquiat; annoying publicist Binky (Chilina Kennedy), looking for her own big break; District Attorney Lamont Brown (Eddie Cooper); and Chad (Peter LaPrade), a graffiti artist who has been turning tricks to survive in the city. As references are made to such club stalwarts as Salvador Dalí, Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Jerry Hall, Truman Capote, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Bianca Jagger, and Richard Gere, Rubell finds himself in quite a mess and the individual stories of the dreamers devolve into stereotypical pablum.

(photo by Ben Arons)

This Ain’t No Disco takes audience inside the hallowed halls of legendary New York City nightclub (photo by Ben Arons)

Early on, Chad sings, “Here the fun never ends / Yeah, I’m having fun,” and there is fun to be had at This Ain’t No Disco, which takes its name from the 1979 Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime.” (“This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco / this ain’t no fooling around / This ain’t no Mudd Club, or CBGB / I ain’t got time for that now.”) Jason Sherwood’s mobile, two-level scaffold set is dynamite, with splashy lighting by Ben Stanton, flashy costumes by Sarah Laux (featuring a lot of bare-chested men in barely there bottoms), projections of a naughty New York on monitors attached to the ceiling and elsewhere, and choreography with plenty of dazzle by Camille A. Brown. But the score is all over the place, too often straying from the kind of music that was heard inside Studio 54 and the Mudd Club in that era and lacking the awesome verve of Hedwig. Sammy is supposed to be punk and Meesh and Landa cutting-edge, but their songs don’t fit who they are and what they want to be. Tony- and Obie-winning director Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, The Killer) can’t find the right balance between the glamour of the Studio 54 lifestyle and the more mundane story of the characters, resulting in a dynamic work that is far more style than substance. No doubt former 1970s club kids will get a kick out of many of the inside jokes while reliving past glory, but the rest of us are likely to not regret for one moment that we never got behind those velvet ropes.

IVO VAN HOVE AND THE COMÉDIE-FRANÇAISE: THE DAMNED

Ivo van Hove’s overwhelming theatrical version of The Damned runs at the Park Avenue Armory thorugh July 28 (photo by Stephanie Berger)

Ivo van Hove’s overwhelming theatrical version of The Damned runs at the Park Avenue Armory through July 28 (photo by Stephanie Berger)

Park Avenue Armory, Wade Thompson Drill Hall
643 Park Ave. at 67th St.
July 17-28, $35-$175, 7:30/8:00
212-933-5812
armoryonpark.org

When France’s legendary Comédie-Française invited innovative Belgian director Ivo van Hove to team up with the three-hundred-plus-year-old company for the prestigious Avignon Festival in 2016, he selected to adapt Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, the 1969 film about the demise of a wealthy steel clan during the rise of the Third Reich. The multimedia piece was presented prior to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States as well as before Brexit and much of the fascistic movement taking hold around the globe, but it feels like it could have been written yesterday, particularly given Trump’s recent stand on steel and other tariffs. The spectacular production has triumphantly moved into the Park Avenue Armory’s massive Wade Thompson Drill Hall, where it immerses, confuses, delights, intrigues, captivates, and perplexes the audience over the course of 130 unpredictable minutes. In fact, afterward, when we were waiting for the bus on Lexington Avenue, an older woman approached us and, explaining that her two friends could not go at the last minute so she was alone, was desperate to discuss what we all had just seen, as she wasn’t sure whether she liked it but was deeply affected by it. Then, on the bus, as my wife and I talked more about the show, a younger woman sitting in front of us, also by herself, requested to join our conversation because she too wanted to know what we thought in order to help her navigate her own experience. Such reactions are not uncommon following works by van Hove, which are almost always fascinating and inventive whether they’re disappointing (Antigone, The Crucible), breathtaking (A View from the Bridge, Kings of War, Cries and Whispers), or somewhere in between (Lazarus).

Makeup tables are incorporated into production of The Damned at Park Avenue Armory(photo by Stephanie Berger)

Makeup tables are incorporated into the staging of The Damned with the Comédie-Française (photo by Stephanie Berger)

The audience sits in rising rafters in front of the large, impressive set, designed by van Hove’s longtime partner and collaborator, Jan Versweyveld, who also did the bold, brash lighting. At stage left are makeup tables and ottomans where characters occasionally change costumes (by An D’Huys) and speak directly into a live camera that projects the scene onto a giant screen at the back. At stage right is a row of wooden coffins where characters are led after they are dead. Tal Yarden’s projections also include archival footage of steel plants and fascism on the rise in Germany. The cast features Didier Sandre as family patriarch Baron Joachim von Essenbeck, who is preparing to choose his successor to save his business in light of the Third Reich’s power grab. In the mix are Joachim’s second son, Konstantin (Denis Podalydés); Konstantin’s son, Gunther (Clément Hervieu-Léger); Sophie (Elsa Lepoivre), the widow of Joachim’s eldest son, who is having an affair with Friedrich Bruckmann (Guillaume Gallienne); Joachim’s youngest son, the unstable Martin (Christophe Montenez); Joachim’s youngest daughter, Elisabeth (Adeline d’Hermy), who is married to Social Democrat Herbert Thallman (Loïc Corbery), with whom she has two girls, Erika (Madison Cluzel) and Thilde (Gioia Benenati); and family cousin Wolf von Aschenbach (Eric Génovese), who has joined the SS. The story is based on the Oscar-nominated screenplay by Visconti, Nicola Badalucco, and Enrico Medioli; although the film was in English, the play is in French and German, with English surtitles for the former. Sound designer Eric Sleichim’s wide-ranging original soundtrack was influenced by Bach, Strauss, Schütz, Buxtehude, and Rammstein, with music by saxophone quartet Bl!ndman.

(photo by Stephanie Berger)

Ivo van Hove’s The Damned takes on fascism in Nazi Germany following the burning of the Reichstag (photo by Stephanie Berger)

Despite many dazzling scenes, The Damned ends up being rather confounding. So much of it is ingenious, but too much of it is repetitive within the show itself as well as within van Hove’s oeuvre, meaning that newcomers to his work might leave much more blown away than his regular attendees. It’s a wholly impressive production, with compelling acting, well-orchestrated blood and gore, curious metaphorical meanderings, and live cameras that evoke Mario Mancini’s original cinematography. But the complex narrative and bevy of characters can get overwhelming, as can some of the spectacle. There’s a coldness that, even if it matches the soul of the film, is lacking something onstage. But despite all that, it is still a must-see, as is everything that van Hove does, whether with the Comédie-Française or his stellar home troupe, Toneelgroep Amsterdam.

FREE SUMMER EVENTS: JULY 22-29

Hal Willner

Hal Willner’s Amarcord Nino Rota is part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival on July 27

The free summer arts & culture season is under way, with dance, theater, music, art, film, and other special outdoor programs all across the city. Every week we will be recommending a handful of events. Keep watching twi-ny for more detailed highlights as well.

Sunday, July 22
SummerStage: Ginuwine, the Ladies of Pink Diamond, and DJ Stacks, Corporal Thompson Park, Staten Island, 5:00

Monday, July 23
The Racial Imaginary Institute: On Whiteness: Intolerable Whiteness by Seung-Min Lee, the Kitchen, waitlist only, 7:00

Tuesday, July 24
Movies Under the Stars: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017), Wingate Park, Brooklyn, 8:45

Wednesday, July 25
Hudson RiverFlicks — Big Hit Wednesdays: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasdan, 2017), Hudson River Park, Pier 63, 8:30

Thursday, July 26
Broadway in Bryant Park: songs from VITALY: An Evening of Wonders, Come from Away, Kinky Boots, The Band’s Visit, and Wicked, cohosted by Bob Bronson, Christine Nagy, and the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong, Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30

Friday, July 27
Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Hal Willner’s Amarcord Nino Rota, featuring music from the first two Godfather films and the tribute album Amarcord Nino Rota (I Remember Nino Rota), with multiple performers, Damrosch Park Bandshell, 7:30

Guelaguetza Festival New York City takes place at Socrates Sculpture Park on July 28

Guelaguetza Festival New York City takes place at Socrates Sculpture Park on July 29

Saturday, July 28
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival:Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1985), screening preceded by live performance by Kaki King featuring Treya Lam, Prospect Park Bandshell, 7:30

Sunday, July 29
Ballet Folklórico Mexicano de Nueva York’s Guelaguetza Festival, Socrates Sculpture Park, 2:00

CYPRUS AVENUE

Julie (Amy Molloy) can’t believe what her father (Stephen Rea) has done in Cyprus Avenue (photo by Ros Kavanagh)

Julie (Amy Molloy) can’t believe what her father (Stephen Rea) has done in Cyprus Avenue (photo by Ros Kavanagh)

The Public Theater, LuEsther Hall
425 Lafayette St. by Astor Pl.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 29, $85
212-967-7555
www.publictheater.org

Stephen Rea is riveting as a bigot who snaps in David Ireland’s incendiary, darkest of dark comedies, Cyprus Avenue. A coproduction of the Abbey Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre running at the Public through July 29, the play is a difficult one to recommend; it’s a testament to the audience’s psychological pain threshold that, the night I saw it, no one left LuEsther Hall during the show’s brutal one hundred intermissionless minutes. Rea is Eric Miller, a Belfast Loyalist who is undergoing treatment with a counselor, Bridget (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo), in an unidentified facility. He is a prickly, uncomfortable, precise man who can no longer find his place in a society that has passed him by. “Everything is upside down. Nothing is what it claims to be,” he says. “Chaos is majesty. Love is degradation. And the world has become a travesty.” He calmly calls Bridget, who is black, the n-word, then gets supremely insulted when she assumes he is Irish. “The last thing I am is Irish,” he declares. “I am anything but Irish. I am British. I am exclusively and non-negotiably British. I am not nor never have been nor never will be Irish.”

(photo by Ros Kavanagh)

Bridget (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo) tries to help Eric Miller (Stephen Rea) make sense of his actions in David Ireland play at the Public (photo by Ros Kavanagh)

As they continue their talk, the narrative cuts to flashbacks, revealing what Eric did that led to his current situation. It all started when his daughter, Julie (Amy Molloy), had a baby that he refused to say anything nice about. “What is wrong with you?” his wife, Bernie (Andrea Irvine), asks incredulously. He calls Julie the c-word, then complains about his sad past: “Resentments. Disappointments. Failed expectations. Ruined dreams. Entanglements. Despair. That which could have been. And that which is.” The trouble reaches a new level once Eric decides that the newborn not only looks like but actually is Gerry Adams, the longtime head of the Sinn Féin, the controversial left-wing Irish republican political party. He shares his dislike of Catholics, who comprise the Sinn Féin, with Bridget, referring to them in derogatory terms. But Eric really breaks when he hires a mysterious balaclava-clad man named Slim (Chris Corrigan) to carry out a heinous plot.

The weight of the world comes crashing down on Eric Miller (Stephen Rea) in David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue (photo by Ros Kavanagh)

The weight of the world comes crashing down on Eric Miller (Stephen Rea) in David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue (photo by Ros Kavanagh)

Directed by Vicky Featherstone, who helmed the 2016 original — which also featured Rea, Molloy, and Corrigan — Cyprus Avenue is meant to shock, and it does. As Belfast native Van Morrison sings in his gorgeous 1968 song of the same name, “And my inside shakes just like a leaf on a tree.” The audience sits on either horizontal side of the stage, the action happening in between on Lizzie Clachan’s relatively spare set. So when something particularly frightful occurs, you can see people on the other side cover their mouths in horror just as you do the same. Ireland (Everything Between Us, What the Animals Say) and Featherstone (Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Victory Condition) hold nothing back as Eric, seemingly in total control, calmly goes about his business in a way that is terrifying; Cyprus Avenue is not quite as farfetched as you might first imagine, particularly here in America, where hatred, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and harsh partisanship seem so commonplace today that individuals are snapping all the time. However, most of us don’t get to see that enacted, even if fictionally, at such close quarters. But what we do get to see right in front of us is a spectacular performance by Oscar and Tony nominee Rea (The Crying Game, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me), who has previously shown a fondness for blood and violence on the New York stage in Sam Shepard’s A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations) at the Signature in 2014. Rea moves slowly throughout, carefully monitoring each step and every breath, completely at a loss to thoroughly understand what he is doing. “I don’t know anything anymore,” he tells Bridget. And it’s meant to be scary that he’s not the only who feels that way.