The Necessity of Stories
By Marcina Zaccaria
Why is creating a story so upsetting? Why must some stories be told while others are ignored? In Suddenly a Knock at the Door, characters with guns approach an otherwise calm writer at his desk. Their stories must be told.
The duress that can create a story is as important as the necessity of telling the story. Who has the story and where is everything. Characters point guns and a hatchet while demanding that writing happen. The disquieting sense (where the audience can laugh and be alarmed) is exceptional.
Live music composed by Oren Neiman and performed by Oren Neiman & Gilad Ben-Zvi fills the sonic landscape. Guitar riffs provide a backbone and a sounding board for Kenneth Talberth, a conductor of information. As the turbulent, outside world encroaches on his desk, he makes every effort to engage with the ensemble and blend his story with theirs.
Kenneth Talberth (as Katzen and others) always breathes in the sound, serving as a fine anchor for the drama. He narrates the action, as it occurs to him. There is an interplay of sound and text. He is intentionally creating the narrative with the music, while staged moments command his attention.
The supporting actors open up the world of the play, speaking in different accents, making each point of plot come alive. Jeffrey Swan Jones is a tall, sturdy, grey haired actor, full of bluster, taking the stage vocally. Alyssa Simon sensitively listens off-stage, bringing a calmness to even the most ridiculous scenes. Antonio Minino brings the energy of commedia dell’arte to the stage, particularly as the characters delve into how life is often like a movie. Elanna White plays a goldfish in the middle of the play, singing until bringing back someone miraculously to life. Stephen Thornton, with clowning and pantomime, creates scenes with range and depth.
Suddenly A Knock at the Door can be startlingly funny. As the energy builds in action, the ensemble creates memorable tableaus to capture the moment. The writer is compelled to script through extraordinary action, while danger is everywhere. The pointing of the gun, and the necessity for negotiation repeats.
If there is a flaw, it is in the repetition without variation. In the 100 minute presentation, the play sometimes feels lengthy without merit. The play, based on stories by award-winning Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret and written by Robin Goldfin, begins with a compelling premise. It constantly incorporates new characters, however, the winding narrative fails to shed light on new angles of the same argument.
Staging by seasoned Director David L. Carson glosses over these imperfections. He cleverly makes stage space for the absurd. Broad, mask work, challenging movement theater, and appealing new characters build a complete drama, with enough surprise to keep the audience engaged.
Suddenly a Knock at the Door is playing at Theater for the New City, located at 155 First Avenue until June 18.
Photos: Peter Welch