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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
INCIDENT AT VICHY
at the Beckett Theatre

AN EXAMINATION WITH NO EASY ANSWERS
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Todd Gearhart, John Friemann&Christopher Burns/Ph: Stephen Kunken

Arthur Miller's skill as dialectician occasionally dulls his effectiveness as dramatist. Not so in The Actors Company Theatre's crackling production of Incident at Vichy, which posits a collection of strangers detained in occupied France under suspicion of falsified papers. Here, in a nondescript waiting room painted the color of "dead clams" (Scott Bradley's angled set instills instant unease), it's 1942, and the threat of being consigned to a work camp has begun to give way to rumors of an even more horrific fate.

Tellingly, it's an artist, Lebeau (bright-eyed Mark Alhadeff) who is the first to sound the alarm - by reaching out to the others in hopes of assuaging anxiety and sharing information. The well-dressed Marchand (James Prendergast) keeps his distance, convinced that his obvious prosperity will secure him a free pass. The socialist Bayard (Ron McClary) stakes his claim to imperturbability on the march of history - though his tremors (rather over-obvious) are a dead giveaway. A waiter (Richard Ferrone) hopes for leniency on the basis of his servile acquaintance with the questioners - including a injury-sidelined field officer played with hair-trigger volatility, and not a trace of storm-trooper cliché, by Jack Koenig. An actor (Gregory Salata) thinks he can fake enough self-confidence to finesse the interrogation. And so on down the line, with diminishing returns in terms of strategy: a Gypsy (Leif Huckman), a mere boy (Russell Kahn), an "Old Jew" (John Freimann) who resorts to davening as their prospects grow ever grimmer ...

There's really only one detainee who seems guaranteed an easy out: the Austrian nobleman Von Berg (Todd Gearhart), who evinces an aesthete's disdain for Nazism (he deplores it as "an outbreak of vulgarity"). This stance strikes the psychiatrist Leduc (Christopher Burns) as insufficiently outraged and engaged. Their debates are the only segments during which the action drags. The dialogue that Miller provides Leduc seems too patently "shrinky," and while Gearhart is superbly nuanced, Burns comes across a touch lethargic for a man whose life is on the line. Even so, the dramatic buildup - under Scott Alan Evans's direction - is relentless in the course of 90 fast-flying minutes, and the shocker of an ending has lost none of its immediacy.

 


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