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A CurtainUp Review
Title and Deed

Love is a many splintered thing.— The Man
Title and Deed
Conor Lovett
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Will Eno’s new solo work starring Conor Lovett, just touched down at the Pershing Square Signature Center. Directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett (Conor Lovett’s wife), and in association with Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, Eno’s latest riff on life is an intense seventy-minute journey. Plugging into the Beckettian landscape of alienation, Eno, via Lovett, takes you to a brave new world where a nameless man discovers that going nowhere is the new truth.

The monologue is preceded by pre-show musical prelude— Benedict Schlepper-Connoly's "Star." The medley of formidable chords that waft through the theater serves as an harbinger for the play’s cosmic atmosphere.

As the music fades out, the Irish-born Conor Lovett walks on stage. He wears comfortable clothes and carries a large bag, which he sets down as he introuces himself with “I’m not from here. I guess I never will be.” His character is simply Man and his words are also the stuff of vagueness, but Lovett’s pleasing brogue and charming manner draw you in from the outset.

The power of Title and Deed is that it speaks to our post 9/11 world, with all its fears, misgivings, and insecurities. Without preaching, Lovett's Man gives voice to thel problem of isolation (“people don’t gather enough, anymore.”) When he pauses early on to welcome everybody to the show, and remarks that “it’s nice to see a little clump,” he’s not just making small talk. He’s transforming the theater into an authentic communal experience. Thus, Man goes beyyond his lyrical words and evolves into a sort of Christ-like figure.

A Brooklyn-based playwright, Eno is no stranger to New York theatergoers. His first extended monologue and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Thom Pain (based on nothing) in in 2005 put him on the New York theatrical map. In addition to various mini-monologues included in assemblages of short plays, the Vineyard Theater presented a high profile full length play, Middletown two years ago. Short or long, solo or with a cast of characters, his works are steeped in existentialism, humor, and the down-to-earth details of our contemporary culture.

The title of the current solo play contains much irony. Man never mentions owning a “title” or “deed” to any real property. He is, in fact, a displaced person, or to use the playwright’s own coinage, an “un-homed” one. Eno whimsically deconstructs his character’s persona as someone who at one time or other had fleeting aspirations to be a veterinarian, oceanographer, or hypothetically, a princess. Yet Man turns out to be no head-in-the-clouds chap. Eno brings realism to the fore by having his protagonist bluntly telling us that these ill-suited ambitions duly returned him to earth with a realistic thump.

Man's rumination moves along at a steady clip, offering sensitive observations on family relationships, romantic love — and ultimately the “great Hide-and-Seek” that grown-up game where swarms of human beings stride the earth for a brief span of history before vanishing forever. Scattered throughout are the names of major historical figures like Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Leonardo da Vinci. However, these greats aren't on a pedestal,or allowed to spew agit-prop on their particular causes or contributions. They're simply part of the conversation in a down-to-earth way, as if they were breath-taking mountain ranges rising out of the flat plains or scooped-out valleys. Thus while Eno gets across the full spectrum of humanity, his real emphasis is on the average Joe.

Lovett for whom the play was written, is a well-known Beckettian monologist, and as Man he offers a comfortless look into the void, yet strangely manages to make it a rather funny experience. Whether he’s musing on his love-making in a cemetery with his ex-girlfriend Lauren, or pondering his last “goodbye” to his dying mother, his character becomes a pungent stand-in for “everyman.” His performance and the observations about the human experience Will Eno has given him to talk about make Title and Deed well worth a visit to the new Signature Center Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater.

Editor's Note: As regular Curtainup readers know, i'm not fired up about most solo plays. When Thom Pain (based on nothing) came up for review, I decided to let an Eno and monologue fan review it. (the review). And while I quite liked Eno's more populated plays, The Flu Season and his existential alternative to Our Town, Middletown, I asked Deirdre Donovan, who enjoys solo shows more than I do, to accompany me to the press preview of Title and Deed and review it. While she makes a valid case for a go-see-it recommendation, I would add that Title and Deed may not be for everyone though at just 70 minutes, it's not a major investment of time to decide for yourself. -- E.S.
Title and Deed by Will Eno
Directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett.
Cast: Conor Lovett.Hegarty Lovett
Scenic designer: Christine Jones
Costume designer: Andrea Lauer
Lighting designer: Ben Stanton
Stage Manager: Donald Fried
From 5/08/12; opening 5/20/12; closing 6/17/12.
Running Time: 70 minutes without intermission
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, Signature Theater Center
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at May 18th press preview
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