Now Is the Winter of Our Deep Content

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The New York Sun

There is a long history of writers trying for the dreamy effects that Gary Winter (and 13P’s sensitive production of “At Said”) seem to sink into with ease. And in thumbnail, his plot – a stifled, static life finally finds its windows thrown open – will seem like the shallowest of cliches. But Mr. Winter manages to take some very pedestrian language (the word “ferris wheel” is so exotic that one character just wants to gaze at it on a page) and make it strange and mysterious again. The sensation is like watching Harold Pinter, feeling our most trusted words turn into slippery bars of meaning in our hands.

Darra (Lia Aprile) loves being a victim. She mopes around her mother’s grubby apartment, bemoaning her inability to get a job. She waves her hands vaguely near her face, blaming “Distance … obstacles …”and taking a weird pride in her fear of computers. “You have to be an expert!” she whines, and collapses again onto the couch. Her mother Sybil (Anita Hollander) lets her dabble in a kiddie pool, as long as she waits after she eats, and commiserates. But when Sybil gets a typewriter and slowly, painstakingly begins to write the story of her awful childhood, Darra’s world creaks into gear.

Mr. Winter seems to have his eye on the kitchen sink – as in hyper realism. Darra mopes about syringes in her hallway, and their first conversations grind and lull like the ones we have every day. But surrounding the two women are odd, clownish figures, like Will (Vedant Gokhale), a hypersexed drug dealer with waggling eyebrows, or the vavoomy neighbor Alex (Marisa Echeverria), who can’t make up her mind between being a Boriqua babe or a 1940s starlet.

All of them treat Sybil’s typewriter like a sacred object: Her ability to make it produce a book,no matter how scattershot,strikes them as miraculous. Mr.Carlos (Gilbert Cruz), the superintendent, takes it a bit more in stride – he wrote in his youth, before “it came back around,” and he found himself hanging from a pear tree. His traumas, which we only ever glimpse obliquely, echo Sybil’s. She might be a Bosnian, or an Armenian, we just know she was from somewhere with too many guns.

Director Tim Farrell clearly knows he has something Beckettian on his hands. His handling of Darra and Sybil is casual and naturalistic, but he treats his supporting cast like they are waiting around for Godot. Mr. Gokhale straddles both styles, apologizing for his outbursts with an organic little grumble, but using Sybil’s crutches like a pair of giant wings. Although Sybil is the bomb in their midst, Mr. Gokhale manages to be the least predictable – it’s like Puck got washed up and started selling the heroin out of his magic flowers.

Ms. Aprile and Ms. Hollander, though, actually elide the difference between the playwright’s words and themselves. Mr. Winter is building up poetry out of the simplest statements (“There was a waterfall,” Sybil seems surprised to remember), and it’s difficult to believe that these women aren’t simply generating it spontaneously. In relief against the sweet zaniness of Ms.Echeverria and Mr. Cruz, they fool us into believing that they are the normal ones … and that everyone these days talks like William Carlos Williams stuck in Bed-Stuy.

Until June 4 (150 First Avenue at 9th Street, 212-352-3101).

The New York Sun

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