Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

God's Ear

Jenny Schwartz
The Vineyard Theatre, New York City
(2008)

Production photo

Our former Edinburgh reviewer, Rachel Lynn Brody, has moved back to the United States and is now giving us the occasional taste of US theatre.

There's a lot going on in God's Ear, a surreal ninety-minute piece which treads the grounds of loss, language, and understanding for one tragedy-struck family. Writer Jenny Schwartz uses repetitive, often broken dialogue to capture both the thought processes of her characters, and the fragmented nature of trying to live while struck by grief.

We meet the nuclear family of Mel (Christina Kirk), Ted (Gibson Frazier) and Lanie (Monique Vukovic) for the first time at the hospital, where Mel relays information about their son, who has drowned, to her husband. Next, Lanie enters with an eerie song, and soon afterwards the three are joined by the Tooth Fairy (Judith Greentree). A transsexual flight attendant (Matthew Montelongo) and a number of other personalities drift in and out of the family's awareness.

In the dream-like world of Mel and Ted's broken relationship, one of the key contributions to our understanding of their space and relationship is Kris Stone's set: square segments that the actors manipulate during entrances and exits to redefine their locations and relationships to one another.

Schwartz's script is densely packed with metaphor and meaning, and both cast and director have made clear choices about how to communicate the play's ideas to the audience, but at times it feels as though we might want a translation guide to signpost the symbolism - just to ensure we're not missing anything. Certainly, one has the sense that this is a piece which would reveal layer upon layer with multiple viewings, and if ever there were a theatre experience which could benefit from a DVD-style "Director's Commentary," God's Ear would be it. The rich melody and careful rhythms of Schwartz's play are entrancing, and while there are one or two slow moments, overall this is a lean and well-crafted production.

Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody