Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Australian Play 'Beautiful Souls' Lands in NYC

Last night, I had the full-throttle thrill of being part of an enthusiastic audience for the U.S. premier of Sven Swenson's Beautiful Souls, presented by the Springboard Theater Company. Set in a Thai prison, this gripping, daring and uncomfortable play spotlights the inner demons of three Australian prisoners as they await execution for drug smuggling.

Throughout this 55-minute piece, the 'beautifully souled' and brain damaged Justin and his handsome, brooding brother David do verbal battle between prison walls regarding the nature of love, family and guilt. Fellow prisoner Beth acts as the moral center of the play, comforting the often terrified Justin and demanding accountability from the ever-combative David. As their execution draws near, the jailhouse confessions of each reveal profound regret, primarily over the life-long failure to connect to fellow human beings with deep love and compassion. The tragedy here is that despite the dawning realization that death is near, each prisoner falls deeper and deeper into the hurtful human traits of anger, selfishness and cruelty, and any 'foxhole conversion' among these tortured souls is minor at best.

Notable are the actors, especially Luke Wright whose subtly-realized performance as the brain injured Justin never falls into caricature or patronization. Jake Robards work as the angry and conflicted David could easily have been one-note, but he gives us a powerful and nuanced portrayal of a man on the edge. And Emma Dean's work as Beth is both tense and moving.

Bonus: Hearing those gorgeous Australian accents, meeting the cast members, crew and director Jeremy Dobrish afterwards, and hanging with some fascinating audience members from all over the globe. The show is in limited run at the Samuel Beckett Theater at 410 W. 42nd, June 28-30 at 7:30 pm, and tix are a supersweet low $18.


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Rick said...

Nice review. Sounds like it's worth seeing. Is the Robards in this play the son of Jason Robards?