In Your Image, now playing at the 59E59 Theaters is a thoughtful and entertaining look at male family relationships. It explores the fraternal link between two brothers, now grown men, who were abandoned by their father when they were just kids. The relationship or lack of one, with their father colors their trust in each other and their own self-image. The brothers, apparently after a few years of estrangement, meet while cleaning their father’s trash littered apartment after the father was discovered dead by neighbors.
The younger brother, Warren is played by Rob Benson – who also wrote the piece. Warren is a bit of an obsessive compulsive individual. He can’t remember his father, and searches among the detritus of the apartment for a clue to the man who abandoned the family so long ago. It is a desperate and fruitless search and he looks for clues to a thirty year old mystery. Mr. Benson’s character seems a bit too forced and mannered, but the son’s anguish and questions come blazing out of him – unable to be bottled up anymore.
Roger Clark plays the older brother, Chris, who is left curiously unmoved by his father’s death. Mr. Clark’s Chris had to step up to be the man of the family after the father left. Forced to take care of mom and his younger brother, who was emotionally and physically scarred, Chris is alternatively protective and embittered. The brothers’ relationship is not only believable, but completely relatable. Forced into the roles of both caretaker and best friend, Chris is quickly frustrated by Warren and yet extremely protective of him and his feelings. It results in outbursts of anger, followed by patches of apologies.
Warren has no memories of the father, so he forces Chris shares his; many of them happy times spent with a popular drunk, before the alcohol settled in and changed him. Warren wants to make sense out of his father’s things, and romantically tries to conjure up an interesting life – and a reason that he would abandon the family. Chris is more practical, the trash and empty bottles testifying to a drunk and lazy coward more than some fanciful father who missed his family.
It is heartbreaking to see the dreams of Warren being confronted with the truth of the situation.
In Your Image is a quick show, less than 90 minutes, most of it in the first act. After a quick intermission, we flash back to meet the father, played with gusto by John Michalski – and get the story of why he left and why he stayed away. There isn’t anything redeeming about the selfish drunk, except maybe that he stayed away. But his selfish musings bring closure for his son Chris, and convince him to review his life’s path.
The set design, by Kacie Hultgren, shows a flat inhabited by someone, but not really lived in. It is more the inside of a dumpster, than a home. It actually feels fake, until the moment that John Michalski inhabits it like a second skin. Directed by Deborah Wolfson, In Your Image takes a while to build the story, but ultimately that story is both powerful and profound.
In Your Image
Website / Tickets
Playwright: Rob Benson
Director: Deborah Wolfson
Cast: Rob Benson, Roger Clark, John Michalski