Maddeningly fuzzy and pretentious, this two-hander brings Norwegian playwright Fosse back to NYC
By Joel Benjamin
Jon Fosse, whose A Summer Day puzzled us in 2012, has returned with I Am the Wind at 59E59, yet another drama in which the sea is a deep, dark metaphor—for God, death, whatever? Elliptical, existential and enigmatic are the three words that come to mind as the two characters, mischievously and irritatingly called The One (Christopher Tierney) and The Other (Louis Butelli), are trapped in a small boat in the middle of an unnamed sea, but within sight of some ill-defined shoreline. In fact everything about I Am the Wind is fuzzy and more than a bit pretentious.
The two characters make reference to vague events in the past, to fears, to dreams and illusions. To illustrate, here are the opening lines:
THE ONE: I didn’t want to. I just did it.
THE OTHER: You just did it.
THE ONE: I just did it.
THE OTHER: It just happened. But you were so afraid it would happen. You said that to me. You told me about it.
THE ONE: I know.
THE OTHER: And then it happened.
It’s all maddeningly and purposely imprecise. It reminded me of a very funny sketch that Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca did in the early fifties wittily sending up Ingmar Bergman’s deeply depressing films which were all the rage back then.
These two characters keep talking all the while brilliantly keeping up the pretense of being in a boat adeptly playing off each other with skill and precision. It is to the great credit of the actors that I Am the Wind is endurable. They are constantly interesting to hear and watch as they accomplish all their physical tasks, all the while listening and giving some specificity to Mr. Fosse’s Beckett-meets-Berman posturing.
That one of the characters is going to die is foreshadowed frequently in the text, but conjuring up any sympathy for him is difficult if not impossible because we never get to know him or the other guy well enough to care.
The scenic design by Steven C. Kemp uses a shiny black floor against walls covered in layered, scalloped grey cloth which look like dark clouds or threatening waves. Amanda Shafran’s costumes do what they can to help define these characters, but hers is an uphill battle. The movement coaching by Katherine Helen Fisher was exemplary as was the overall direction of Paul Takacs.
*Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima
I Am the Wind (through January 26, 2014
59E59 Theaters – Theater C
59 East 59th St., between Madison and Park Aves.
New York, NY
Tickets: 212-279-4200 or www.59E59.org
Running time: one hour