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A CurtainUp Review
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At a bracing fifty minutes, every word counts, and Schultz's minimalist style of dialogue is readily apparent. However, it's so minimalist that it becomes choppy. Perhaps this is, an attempt for some sort of linguistic hyper-realism, but the play itself is too rooted in reality to break free of naturalism. As a result, everything feels choppy and forced. The short scenes (most under three minutes) don't help.
The playwright has tackled a difficult subject, so kudos for that. Everything we see is oncerned with death or dying or other tragic events, as chronicled through the lives of several different people, intersecting in various ways. One is dying of cancer, and her husband is too creeped out to stay with her. Another has just dumped her loser boyfriend, then finds out her grandfather intends to commit suicide. Two characters are gay and lonely and desperately unhappy. On the periphery of these tragedies are two suburban women in a hospital waiting room, commiserating over a "very sad" book (which may or may not be the play unfolding in front of us). Josh Epstein's brutal lighting—if you've ever been to a hospital waiting room, you know the lighting I'm talking about—lends an added layer of desperation to the proceedings.
The actors seem occasionally unsure of their place in the world, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether it's intentional. However, the cast is solid and Wendy C. Goldberg's direction seems assured even though there isn't a lot to work with.
Loss and death are overwhelming subjects that even the longest play couldn't adequately address. Not that Schultz is aiming to create the definitive play on death, but Deathbed is a little too hesitant. At times it's like his last one in that it has an unclear relationship to reality, but that doesn't help when dealing with such weighty issues.
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