BOTTOM LINE: Until We Find Each Other is the touching story of a family's connection to one another, to their heritage, and to the people around them.
Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Until We Find Each Other is the inaugural show of MSK Productions. In the transcendental reality of three cousins who are psychically connected to one another, this show magnifies the struggle in all of us to come together. Written by Brooke Berman and directed by David Winitsky (a reviewer here at Theasy), Until We Find Each Other asserts that we are inexorably, personally connected to every other individual and to our higher power, we only need to find the exchange.
The majority of this production's attention was wisely given to the acting. In a festival setting, a show has limitations on its set and technical flourish, and so the weight of presentation falls on great performances. The fresh, talented cast of Until We Find Each Other takes on this challenge, and drags the convoluted script behind them across the setless stage. Mara Kassin jets as vibrant energy in her role as Miriam. Chris Bannow is a stammered heartbeat before us. And Abbi Hawk flows with warmth, truth, and the sheer confidence that comes from her character's utter uncertainty. Allyson Morgan gives an especially animated portrayal of the supporting character Tangee, a sweet, earthy woman who has a great need but also the practicality to avoid desperate decisions.
Unfortunately, the creative team behind the show didn't reach the same standard. The technical limitations imposed on the production were obvious. There is no set to speak of, and the tried-and-true practice of rehearsal chairs that move to delineate new spaces is more pragmatically employed than creatively crafted. Similarly the costumes lack an attempt at a cohesive design. The sound starts off promisingly, but soon became monotonous and choppy. I had heard the same sounds earlier, and so I simply stopped listening to them.
Aside from the monotony, the growing disorder of the sound may have been a directorial choice, because it matches a change in the pacing of the show and the transitions between scenes. As Until We Find Each Other progresses, the whole stagecraft grows erratic, almost jarring. It may be an attempt to build a feeling of tempestuousness as the action reaches climax.
In a similar line of thought, the script begs for a poignance at the end that it may or may not provide for itself, which could be made more clear. With a shift in the tone, and a build toward the end in the falling action, this arty play could leave the audience feeling that it has communicated a message, but instead Until We Find Each Other just works itself up into a frenzy, and then caps off with five ambiguous pages of muddled, uncertain dialogue and action.
But this disappointing finale is most regrettable because it is a disservice to the show's much more promising start. The script has a meaty idea to untangle, looking literally at the soul of who we are as humans. The performers have gusto and passion. But the extra mile was not traveled, and so this show does not reach its full potential. Perhaps it will in a future incarnation, in a different setting with more resources available.
(Until We Find Each Other plays through August 1, 2010 at the Workshop Theatre Mainstage, 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor. Performances are July 24th at 4pm, July 25th at 2pm, July 28th at 6pm, and July 30th at 8pm. Tickets are $15-$18 and can be purchased directly at www.MidtownFestival.org, by calling 868-811-4111, or through Ticket Central at www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200.)