BOTTOM LINE: Fifty charming minutes of family exposé with a big pay off at the end.
Terri Hulme (played by Morgana O'Reilly) is raising four reasonably average kids, is married to a suitable enough man, lives a relatively comfortable life, but is neither happy nor content. Upon first walking out of The Height of The Eiffel Tower I wasn't quite sure what the show was about, but the show grew richer upon further reflection. For about an hour O'Reilly portrays different members of the Hulme family in moments that are often funny, but never really significant. Thirteen-year-old Nathan Hulme delivers a speech about fish. Sixteen and pregnant, Anna-Louisa Hume takes every moment she has to ensure that someone else is annoyed. And Kate Hume tells stories about her adventures abroad. Nothing stands out until the last two minutes, when Terri Hulme reads a letter she left to her husband announcing her departure from the family. She leaves her husband and pregnant daughter in what is not a terribly dramatic moment on stage, but one that resonates in its calmness afterwards. The Height of the Eiffel Tower is ultimately about mediocrity being terrifying, and in this it speaks loudly.
Lest I leave anyone thinking that this is a very serious piece, I should also praise O'Reilly's comedic timing. The very beginning of the play, in which she stages a fight between the sulky Nathan and the pregnant Anna-Louisa, stands out as a particularly good moment. O'Reilly is one of the rare solo performers who defines her characters so specifically and skillfully that it's easy to forget she's the only one up there. The fifty minutes speed by; The Height of the Eiffel Tower is definitely worth the time.
(The Height of the Eiffel Tower plays at 4th Street Theater, 83 East 4th Street, through August 18th. The remaining performance is 8/18 at 9:30pm. For more information visit www.rambunctious.co.nz. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)