Phoenix, written by Scott Organ and directed by Jennifer Delia is a two-person play starring Julia Stiles (Oleanna) as Sue and James Wirt (Let’s Kill Grandma This Christmas) as Bruce. It takes place in New York City and Phoenix though it really could be a story told anywhere in the United States. A one-night-stand with a consequential outcome serves as the catalyst for these two people’s very unlikely, and even curiously awkward, relationship.
Cherry Lane Theatre is set on a quaint street in SoHo and is certainly a place I’ll visit again. There is not a bad seat in the house, but do bring a sweater as the AC was set for a menopausal woman. Yikes! Caite Hevner Kemp did the set design which was hip and contemporary and together with Rick Carmona who did the lighting design, Janie Bullard who did the sound design, and Burton Machen who was the scenic artist, created an aesthetically pleasing view even if it did not make sense nor lend itself to a better understanding of the plot. Amit Gajwani costumed the two characters so they could really be any 20 or 30 something which is fitting with the American culture that serves as foundation to the storyline.
The ethical dilemmas that arise when you have two completely contradictory goals is present in the script though the articulation missed the mark. I could not tell if Sue was an emotionally vacant and self-consumed woman or if she was simply portrayed that way. And Bruce, bless his heart, seemed to be a well-intentioned man, but definitely a door mat for this woman who seemed to equate “the right to her body” with the right to be rude, abusive, vacillating between a femme fatale and “my way or the highway” gavel pounder. The severity of the issues: unwanted pregnancy, abortion, death, loss of hope, heartbreak, loneliness were hardly impressed upon the audience beyond sarcasm, yelling, or a science fiction fantasy story, more whimsical than tragic. There is a lot that can be done with this play and I really felt that the audience was pulling for Julia and James even if not for Sue and Bruce- the two have chemistry between them.Along with Rose Riccardi, production state manager, Katie Fergerson, assistant stage manager, Jeremy Duncan Pape, production manager, Brierpatch Productions, general management, there was a host of producers: Nicholas Jabbour, Julie Pacino, Poverty Row Entertainment, Rian Patrick Durham, and Rattlestich Playwrights Theater. Get tickets for this one-act play with a limited engagement through August 23rd.
Review by: Michele Seven
Photos by: Harry Fellows