By Scott Organ; Directed by Seth Barrish
Produced by The Barrow Group
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 2.10.18
TBG Mainstage Theatre, 312 West 36th Street
by Shoshana Roberts on 1.21.18
DeAnna Lenhart, Zachary Booth, Robert Manning, Jr., and Alexa Shae Niziak in The Thing with Feathers. Photo by Todd Cerveris.
BOTTOM LINE: An older man talking to a sixteen-year-old online seems strange, but this play gets weirder as secrets come to light. A fantastic cast navigates the script's convoluted relationships.
Beth (DeAnna Lenhart) and Anna (Alexa Shae Niziak) have a fantastic mother-daughter relationship, in the vein of Gilmore Girls' Lorelai and Rory: Beth thanks her daughter "for the coffee, and the psychoanalysis." Without Anna's father in the picture, she and her mom have developed an incredible bond, woven together as friends and confidantes. Of course, going through puberty will change a person. Anna is turning seventeen and becoming headstrong. The events that are about to take place may or may not affect their relationship forever.
Beth has been dating Tim (Robert Manning, Jr.) for enough time that she is under the impression he will propose. She plans to say no, but even the best laid plans don't always work out. Anna has met the adult Eric (Zachary Booth) on the internet, and they are still talking. But is it really "just two people talking" as Eric claims? What does a grown man want with a teenager? We immediately question his intentions as he smooth talks his way into an in-person hangout, telling Anna, "My dumb friends... are... dumb. But then there's you. You have this life force in you...that I just want to be near. Even if I never get to touch it. I just want to be near it." Without giving anything away, I will refer to The Barrow Group's own blurb: "What appears to be a classic predator tale unravels into a maze of secrets, lies and unexpected truths."
Lenhart and Niziak really take advantage of the relationship playwright Scott Organ has constructed for them; Seth Barrish's direction helps to make their dialogue into a series of verbal tennis matches. Despite the production's slow start, the cast is able to pivot quickly into mixing scary with funny to keep the audience shocked with unexpected twists and turns. The bar is set high in the first act; unfortunately, once the play's secrets are revealed in the second, the surprise and delight diminishes.
In today's social and political climate, we are starting to dissect issues of power. The problem of sexual predation is a tough one to tackle. Despite some disappointing elements, The Thing with Feathers is the kind of show that can help propel the conversations we need to be having.
(The Thing with Feathers plays at TBG Mainstage Theatre, 312 West 36th Street (3rd floor), through February 10, 2018. The running time is 2 hours with an intermission. Performances are Mondays at 8, Wednesdays though Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 7. Tickets are $25-$35 and are available at barrowgroup.org or by calling 866-811-4111.)
The Thing with Feathers is by Scott Organ. Directed by Seth Barrish. Set Design is by Edward T. Morris. Lighting Design is by Solomon Weisbard. Sound Design is by Matt Otto. Costume Design is by Kristin Isola. Stage Manager is Allison Raynes.
The cast is Zachary Booth, DeAnna Lenhard, Robert Manning, Jr., and Alexa Shae Niziak.