Written and Performed by Nicola Wren; Directed by George Chilcott
Produced by DugOut Theatre
Off Off Broadway, Solo Show
Runs through 5.13.18
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
by Eleanor J. Bader on 4.29.18
Nicola Wren in Replay. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: An exceptionally poignant, bittersweet, and intense monologue—leavened with occasional humor—about the impact of suicide.
They say that timing is everything, and while this is patently untrue, it does matter. Just ask W (Nicola Wren), a London policewoman hoping to elbow her way to Sergeant. W has one more hurdle, and she’s spent countless hours preparing for the final interview, compiling list after list of achievements and goals and meeting with a mentor for a final pep-talk. She’s ready—or would be, if life would stop pelting her with obstacles and whammies. Unfortunately, these obstacles and whammies are real whoppers—a cascade of incidents that pile up in rapid succession—that conspire to derail W's career ambitions.
A less skilled writer-actor would make the confluence of things that befall W appear contrived, but Nicola Wren’s gripping one-woman show Replay is anything but. As the play's sole character, W portrays an adult who is compelled to revisit her relationship with big brother Jamie before he ended his life at age 19. W was 10 when Jamie died and knew nothing of his mental state. She only knew that he was in college, wanted to be a teacher, and had moments of pure, unadulterated goofiness that she adored. When she visited him in his apartment—for the first time taking the train without parental supervision—the siblings went to Piccadilly Circus, played video games, and danced to a tune called "Sit Down." W loved the weekend and hoped there would be many more like it. But it was not to be.
Fifteen years later, the tightly wound W is no stranger to life’s most unsavory situations. Until now, she’d been up to the challenge of police work. This changes when she and her partner have to inform a family that their husband/father has killed himself. When the child of the household asks W what would make someone do something like this, her professionalism crumbles and she feels both the little girl’s agony and her own loss and confusion. Things spiral even further downward when W returns home to find a package from her mom—a birthday tape from Jamie to W discovered while cleaning the garage. As you’d expect, this sends W down a thorny, grief-and-anger-filled path. Suffice it to say that it is a harrowing, but ultimately healing, journey.
Wren’s performance is astounding, and perhaps because the play takes place in a tiny black box theater, with no set whatsoever, there are no distractions from her in-your-face monologue. Throughout, she moves with fluid grace and continually makes direct eye contact with audience members. It’s riveting. It’s also an often funny look at the ties that bind and a realistic assessment of the realities that impede forward motion.
Wren has described Replay to British interviewers as uplifting and moving. It’s that and more. Wren brilliantly juggles comedy and tragedy, and her presence has the emotive power to provoke empathy. This alone makes Replay an important, unusual, and extremely satisfying work.
(Replay plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through May 13, 2018. The running time is 55 minutes. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30; Saturdays at 2:30 and 7:30; and Sundays at 2:30. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or visiting 59E59.org.)
Replay is written and performed by Nicola Wren. Directed by George Chilcott. Set Design by Jen McGinley. Lighting Design by Tom Kitney. Sound Design by Max Perryment. Producer is Milly Smith. Raynelle Wright is the Stage Manager.
The cast is Nicola Wren. Jamie is voiced by Mark Weinman. The Police Officer is voiced by Will Brown.