By Sandi Durell . . .
The play by Ngozi Anyanwu, currently ensconced at the Linda Gross Theater at Atlantic Theater Company, is a cry of loneliness, confusion to stay or go and letting go. It feels deeply personal. It is a long poem that spews uncontrollable rage and anger. Do not think you will be wrapped in a blanket of lovely love letters.
Meet the trio of players: The charismatic Ngozi Anyanwu herself as “You”; Daniel J. Watts as “You No. 2 and Xavier Scott Evans as “Person.” The place is “Anywhere” – the time: Whenever. The opening has Anyanwu lolling, rolling across her metal bed with ear phones (no speech for quite a while) listening to the music of “Love TKO” perfectly paired with what she is experiencing. The notable lighting by Stacey Derosier; the shabby apartment design by Yu Hsuan Chen rightly in sync. She is unstoppable when the well of words opens to bring us into her world of pain, deceit, hate and confusion about You No. 2, (“How did you know by making me everything, you made me nothing“) allowing a flood gate of emotions to pour forth. An unending monologue of vehemence as to the whys she must leave You No. 2. It’s heart-wrenching and heart-breaking. But nothing compared to what’s about to happen.
White clad movers empty the stage and what we see are papers strewn everywhere, a wall with a urinal, a sink and a long stairway leading upwards to a door. We’ve entered the inside of an asylum where You No. 2, the exceptional Daniel J. Watts ,now resides. Watts is the epitome of athleticism in his movement. He is like a caged animal, his dialogue disjointed, abstract, unable to comprehend the loss of You as he rants and raves, writing and re-writing letters, tearing them apart – tortured and fearful. The clarity and severity of his downward spiral is enhanced by Person (a robotic figure) who continually administers medication. His presence gives pause to more futuristic authoritarian days.
There’s much more that follows but I won’t give anything further away.
Directed by Patricia McGregor, this highly discomforting production includes some, but very little levity, allowing for the rare break to breathe. There are many unclear passages and somewhat disjointed moments but it appears obvious this is an honest and very personal catharsis. This is not a play for everyone.
The Last of the Love Letters continues thru Sept. 26 at the Atlantic Theater Company.
Photos: Ahron R. Foster