By Earnest Kearney — All playwrights of any merit explore those vast and stretching abysses that form human relationships. In his earlier work, The Size of Pike and now in Triptych, writer Lee Wochner shows he prefers to delve into the most convoluted canyons to journey in reverse of their sources.
As way of a reminder, to those of us who have forgotten all we ever learned in high school art class, a triptych is a work of art: a paneled painting of three sections hinged together to form a single work. Perhaps the most famous being Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Aptly enough, Triptych involves three characters; art and, like Bosch’s Gothic masterpiece Paradise, judgment and hell.
The first two characters we meet are Trudy (Daria Balling) a sweet, somewhat naive struggling artist and Robert (Ross Kramer) a lawyer. It is the aftermath of a celebration party in which Trudy is now the last remaining guest, and Robert is making the moves on her with all the smoothness of a Great White’s dorsal fin slicing water.
This scene ends with the first of the play’s “bouncing Betties,” as Madison (Laura Buckles) Robert’s, highly successful scientist, wife enters the room to clean up the party’s remnants and to insist that Trudy spend the night.
What Wochner offers us is an opportunity to follow Harold Pinter down a rabbit hole, insisting to us that human relationships are never what we hope to find, but that the search can at least be fun.
Balling, Kramer and Buckles are strong and skilled actors and director Michael David shows his craft in guiding them through the rapids and undertow of a work that could prove a disastrous enterprise in the hands of lesser talent.
But it is the play itself that holds center stage and refuses even to release its grip after the final blackout – as demonstrated by the street side debates that erupted all about me the moment the audience emerged from the theatre.
Wochner is a cerebral and perversely clever writer, which can be both a strength or a weakness when conveying his intent. He likes to muddle his protagonist, insisting that an audience find him or her on their own.
Here the audience needs to determine which of his trio of characters are the depictions of which allegorical panel, and perhaps are even given the opportunity of deciding their own placement.
His structure also presents a challenge that will either delight or confuse an audience.
Most playwrights lay out their works like treasure maps. Follow the clues of the plot and you’ll inevitably arrive at the buried chest containing the gold of the denouement. Wochner has constructed Triptych in opposition of that, with each scene closing on a revelation in reverse of where we expected we were being lead, and eventually discovering it’s not a map leading us towards a treasure, but a map leading us into a mine field.
A fact we realize only when hearing the first ka-boom.
For reminding us that theatre should be dangerous, a GOLD MEDAL.
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Triptych by Lee Wochner
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