The ephemeral quality of memory and relationships are just a fact of life – memories shift and change, just as relationships grow over the course of time. And both memories and relationships can be lost – a quality that Isolde, a new play written and directed by Richard Maxwell displays beautifully.
Isolde tells the story of Isolde and Patrick, a married couple. He’s a contractor of a construction company and she’s a famous actress. But Isolde is having trouble remembering her lines recently. So Patrick tries to ease her troubles by letting her build her dream home, but things become shaky after Massimo, an award-winning architect becomes involved in the project.
Isolde was played very charmingly by Tory Vazquez, in a way the blended a mature woman with a very open and almost child-like outlook on the world. Her many wanderings around the room, as well as wandering thoughts always appeared to have some purpose, even if that purpose wasn’t clear to us. Jim Fletcher portrayed Patrick as a guy who clearly loves his wife, but is struggling to control the path in which his life appears to be wandering down.
As Massimo, Gary Wilmes alternates between dry commentary on life and then switching to grand sweeping soliloquies about the design for Isolde’s dream home. This duality shows why exactly Massimo is so intriguing for Isolde, as he captures the audience’s attention as well. Though the main scene stealer of the night was Brian Mendes as Uncle Jerry, a man of not too many words, but one who expertly knows how silence and the right facial expression can speak (hilarious) volumes.
The direction and writing of this play are both done by Richard Maxwell, which leads to a great melding of text and movement on the stage. The scenes blend seamlessly like memories do. Sometimes the dialogue can become stilted and very definitively staged, but the scenes and actions just keep rolling. Scenes change almost like dreams, you blink, and something else has shifted, someone has changed costumes, and a week in the play has gone by. It’s in this way that the show moves quicker than “realistic” life. Maxwell believes deeply in experimenting onstage and Isolde may not score a touchdown on everything, but no one can say it’s traditional.
The minimalism of the scenic/lighting design by Sascha Van Riel cooperates well with the costume designs by Romy Springsguth and Kaye Voce. Again, the simplicity speaks to how memories fade with time until only the most important and basic details remain.
Highly original and intriguing, Isolde leads its charmed existence only briefly, which is fitting considering the story itself. It will only be running until September 27 at Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shaekspeare Center in Brooklyn.
Review By: Chrissy Cody
Photos By: Gerry Goodstein