In Her Absence

Written by Jacob Paul ’13, “In Her Absence” tells the story of a New York family attempting to deal with the loss of one of its own. The father, Frank (Noah Bokat-Lindell ’12), is an NPR host with a codeine addiction; the elder brother, David (Peter Lewis ’13), is a typical clean-cut husband in his late 20s; his younger brother, Michael (Henry Gottfried ’13), is a free spirit living on a boat on the West Coast. The play, which jumps from David’s apartment in the late ’90s to the office of Frank’s psychiatrist in the ’70s, begins when Michael arrives at his brother’s home for dinner.

Gottfried brings a much-needed energy to the show. He possesses a complex understanding of Michael’s emotions that prevents his character from becoming a caricature, and the tender moment he shares with Lewis is the most evocative interaction between the two brothers. Julie Shain ’13, as Michael’s hippie girlfriend Rain, also adds a certain amount of comic relief to the show.

Director Zeke Blackwell ’13 demonstrates a consciousness of the pace of everyday life. At the most emotional moment in the play, Blackwell aptly uses prolonged silence as a tool to build tension. To the audience’s disappointment, however, the quick, easy resolution of the tension seems slightly forced.

Even at its most resonant, “In Her Absence” leaves something to be desired. It hints at certain elements of the family dynamic that could be explored, but doesn’t quite do them justice. Perhaps because of the brevity of the show (it runs just over half an hour), characters aren’t developed deeply enough to allow the audience to make a significant connection. The play’s end was shocking, but wasn’t as emotionally charged as it could have been.

When It Rains It Pours

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“When It Rains It Pours” follows six children at the end of the world as they try to survive in a mystical, rainy landscape, evading “storm shadows” and looking for a guiding light from the mysterious “watchmen.” Surrounded by desolation, the children realize that they’re growing up, but don’t know how to handle the situation.

Christine Shaw ’14 brings an accessibility to her performance that is lacking in her portrayal of David’s wife in “Absence.” As the brooding adolescent Tristan, Jordan Ascher ’14 does his best to build his character around a kernel of truth, but his role is ultimately neglected in the play’s resolution. The rest of the cast is at their best when they work as an ensemble. The only character who truly holds his own is the Watchman (Sam Lasman ’12), who, with his hunched stance and sly grin, is everything the audience would want from a mysterious guide.

The gloomy lighting clearly conjures up images of rain and adds to the surrealism of the production. Throughout the play, flashlights are also utilized effectively to draw the audience into the world of the children. Light is an important aspect of the show, and its presence or absence elevates key moments in the story.

The end of “Rains” ties everything up into a neat little box that seems too clean-cut. Ultimately, the show reflects a verse oft repeated by the mysterious Watchman: “Rain is dark, night is strong/One alone will not last long.” In this ensemble piece, nothing could be more appropriate.

“In Her Absence” and “When It Rains It Pours” opened Thursday night and run through Saturday at the Off-Broadway Theater.