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June 21, 2016
Review: Suddenly, A Knock at the Door
Elanna White, Kenneth Talberth & Jeffrey Swan in "Suddenly, A Knock on the Door." Photo by Peter Welch
Elanna White, Kenneth Talberth & Jeffrey Swan in "Suddenly, A Knock on the Door." Photo by Peter Welch

Lights up on two smiling musicians perched in the corner and an older man, presumably a frustrated writer, sitting with his head in his hands before a computer. As the audience shuffles in, we see the writer we come to know as Katzen (Kenneth Talberth), massaging his temples--in character--so as to create a tense atmosphere before the show even begins.

Under the direction of David Carson, the eight actors in Suddenly, A Knock at the Door, take their respective stools, and the brilliant, electric stories of Israeli writer Etgar Keret fill the black box that is the Theatre For A New City. The poignant narratives, adapted for the stage by Robin Goldfin and accompanied by two live musicians, are told in such a way that each story is seamlessly woven into the next one. In one, an Israeli woman (Alyssa Simon), assumes the role of an unknowing wife that must identify her dead, estranged husband (Jeffrey Swan Jones). After she unwillingly identifies her husband, her tone softens while she ponders the brevity and strangeness of life. While the audience relishes this sentimental moment with the character, they are quickly ripped from reality as Jones suddenly rises from the 'dead', exclaiming a humorous line that leads right into the next short story.

In another scene, we follow the masterful performance of a father (Jones) as he recalls visitations with his young son (Stephen Thornton), after a recent divorce. Jones and Thornton play the scene side-by-side, facing the audience, which allows the viewers to experience the feeling of being in their heads. The visits, which have an emotionally tolling effect on the father, become more apparent as the scene progresses, and Jones adjusts physically to the ebb and flow of having a son that he can only see when he is allowed. This scene best illustrates Keret's gift for creating an authentic slice-of-life story, as the audience is left without a happy ending.

While each individual story may have lost some of its specificity through being translated for the stage, the heart of these painfully human stories that Keret is known for still triumphs. The comic-drama teaches us through absurdities, like a wise-talking magic goldfish, that we are all here to tell our stories, so we must not shy away from living our own personal truths.

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Written by: Jordan Anton
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