HALF AND HALF
Kim Wall delivers a brilliant performance as Barry, an aging municipal employee, in Alan Ayckbourn’s Arrivals and Departures, part of the Brits Off-Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters. Mr. Wall carries the show, and although surrounded by a fine cast, without him there’s not much to see here. Still, the first act of this two hour and fifteen minute play, directed by Mr. Ayckbourn, feels interminable. The second one gets better. And the climax is devastating, making the entire ordeal worthwhile. Or almost. I can’t quite decide. I am glad I saw it. But would I sit through it again? Probably not.
A dangerous terrorist is known to be on a train and an undercover military unit, lead by Major Quentin (a delightful Bill Champion), is set up in a terminal to nab him. Problem is, the only person who knows what this terrorist looks like is a little parking enforcement officer named Barry (Mr. Wall), who a few days earlier got into an altercation with him over a parking ticket. Barry is brought to the terminal to finger the terrorist when he arrives, and Ez (Elizabeth Boag), a twenty-three-year-old soldier, is assigned to protect him. As the two interact in the first half of the show – he enthusiastically, she reluctantly – we get flashbacks that tell us her story. In act two we see their same interaction, slightly condensed, but this time the flashbacks are Barry’s.
I’m not a big fan of the flashback, but that’s neither here nor there. A few directorial missteps aside, the big problem with Arrivals and Departures is that although Ms. Boag does an admirable job of making Ez sympathetic, infusing her with a lovely mixture of defiance and vulnerability, Ez’s narrative serves its thematic and dramatic purpose in the first ten minutes and there is little reason for it to go on for fifty more. Besides being flat and pedestrian, most of her story doesn’t gel with the rest of the play, and the revelation at its conclusion is bizarre and unbelievable.
Still, there is much to enjoy in Arrivals and Departures. Russell Dixon’s performances in his multiple roles leap to mind. A good number of the jokes work. But mostly it’s Barry, whom Mr. Ayckbourn renders with such love and compassion and humor that this character remains with you long after the show is over.
Additional cast: Rachel Caffrey, Sarah Parks, Emily Pithon, Ben Porter, James Powell, Richard Stacey, Sarah Stanley, Gracey Brouillard, Genevieve Beirne, Vivianne Brouillard, Phoebe Beirne.
photos by Andrew Higgens and Tony Bartholomew
Arrivals and Departures
scheduled to end on June 29, 2014
for tickets, call (212) 753-5959
or visit www.59e59.org