NY Theater Review Sandi Durell
Although I never read James Dickey’s best selling novel “Deliverance,” I do recall my pounding heart seeing the 1972 movie version.
Adapted to the stage for Godlight Theatre Company by Sean Tyler, this barebones “Deliverance” does not skimp on thriller hair-raising moments as the fine ensemble of seven actors bring the story to life in the small Theater C at 59e59 Theaters.
Four Atlanta friends, egged on by macho buddy Lewis (Greogry Konow), who has a passion for the wilderness and a plan for survival, reluctantly decide to canoe down a remote river in the mountains. Lewis is excited and adamant that they must make the trip before that river is gone which will soon happen as part of a dam project.
With some hesitancy, especially from their young, overweight buddy Bobby (Jarrod Zayas), they all decide to just do it; Lewis saying to bring all the liquor they want to “experience the sensation of racing down white water half drunk.” Drew (Sean Tant) is in, so long as he can bring his guitar even though he thinks the whole thing is crazy. Lewis reminds Ed (Nick Paglino) to bring his bow. Ed likes challenges, is a thinker and tough – he also narrates portions of the play.
It isn’t long before they meet up with local mountain men (Jason Bragg Stanley), suspicious of city folk but, Drew with guitar in hand, has a bonding moment with the old man’s young relative Lonnie (Bryce Hodgson) who doesn’t talk but plays a mean banjo (reminiscent of the “dueling banjos” segment in the movie). As the group moves deeper into the wilderness in two canoes, they become separated. Bobby and Ed are accosted by two hillbilly men, Bobby raped and Ed tied up in an intensely chilling scene. Lewis and Drew arrive, Lewis killing one of the men with his bow, as an argument ensues about what to do with the dead man – call the local police or get rid of the body.
On the small square shiny black floor stage, these fine actors, sans props, create a terrifying 90 minutes, as Ed takes the reins after Drew is subsequently killed by one of the mountain men (they’re all related you know) and Lewis is injured. Frightened, though he may be, Ed comes up with a plan to get them home; all sworn to keep their secret of how they disposed of the deadman even when questioned by the local Sheriff Griner (Eddie Dunn) and his Deputy, also played by a scary Bryce Hodgson (who couldn’t be more real as a hillbilly mountain man), when they finally reach their destination down river in Aintry.
Without scenery and props one would be hard pressed to think that the terror displayed in this story of survival could be accomplished. But given the exquisite lighting and smoke effects (by Maruti Evans), that highlight each of the actors individuality, together with sound effects (Ien Denio) that bring the rushing river, gun shots and creatures of the night to life, we are thrust into the reality of this disturbing adventure, accessorized by the astute fight choreography of Rick Sordelet, while director Joe Tantalo cleverly and poetically winds and weaves these seven men through the mist and darkness of “Deliverance.”
*Photos: Jason Woodruff
“Deliverance” at 59e59 Theaters runs 90 minutes – 212 279-4200 – thru November 9th