Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Carinval Round The Central Figure: A Crazy Dance of Caring

Carnival Round The Central Figure is an odd evening of theatre, that ultimately builds to an extremely satisfying conclusion. The play is both a humorous and cathartic piece that investigates the audiences’ fear of illness and those who are sick. In Carnival, the patient is seen, and occasionally heard, but is neither part of nor particularly aware of the events around them.

It is a challenging topic for a play, especially for young adults. Carnival Round The Central Figure was originally produced by NYU in 1996 (a co-production of the Atlantic Acting School and Tisch School of the Arts Theater). This production, fifteen years later, has 5 of the original case members.

Danni Simon & Ted Caine
(photo by Deneka Peniston)
The play starts with a series of disconnected scenes. In what seems like a key scene early on, a wife chatters a soliloquy to her husband, lying in bed obviously very sick. When a work mate and her date arrive for a visit, the depth of the wife’s denial is obvious.

In other scenes a self-help psychologist preaches about cheating death –never dying. Livia Scott overplays this role, as intended. She brings a maniacal energy to this health care worker. “Just because it hasn’t been done, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

And finally a TV Evangelist rails over a dying young girl. Her death, he preaches, is the result of a sinful life. David Michael Kirby is great as the father of a friend of the dying girl in this vignette. But the stand-outs do not overwhelm the rest of the cast, they are excellent overall. They bring to life a diverse and scary cast of characters that personify our fear of facing death.

As the play progresses, the character of Kate brings the disparate pieces into a cohesive whole. Kate is expertly handled by Danni Simon. It is a tough role, in which she has to come through the fear of death to offer support to the dying.

Playwright Diana Amsterdam wrote Carnival after dealing with the death of a loved one herself. She shows remarkable restraint in not overdoing the emotion of the piece. It is written not in bold swaths of direction, but in quiet tones of acceptance.

Karen Kohlhaas directs the piece with a certain loony tunes vibe. The humor she highlights in the play makes the real emotion come as a surprise the audience. It is a tricky line, but one that the director and the cast get mostly correct.

Carnival Round The Central Figure

Website and Tickets

Playwright: Diana Amsterdam

Director: Karen Kohlhaas

Cast: Carla Briscoe, Ted Caine, Janna Emig, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Raymond Hill, Stephanie Hsu, David Michael Kirby, Shane LeCocq, Christine Rowan, Kori Rushton, Rebecca Schoffer, Livia Scott, Cynthia Silver, Danni Simon, Ed Stelz, John Early

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