Count your blessings. That’s what audiences at playwright Lee Blessing’s “A View of the Mountains” can do through May 25 at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. So can all the residents in surrounding areas – to have such a theatre within reach. Once again, the set, the acting, the direction, the intimacy achieved between audience and performers reach a level of excellence that begins with the choice of material. “The play’s the thing,” and for that, we need to thank Mr. Blessing.
A number of years ago I saw his “Cobb” off-Broadway in NYC where the three characters on stage were the infamous hall-of-fame baseball player at three different stages in his life. They argued, taunted, questioned each other and tried to explain themselves as any of us who has lived more than a few years does within ourselves nearly every day. This innovative staging of character made an impression that has never left me. In “A View of the Mountains,” the debate is just as familiar, because it echoes the current national political polarization and the ageless conflict between father and son.
The action is very quick. This is a compliment to all involved when you remember that the substance out of which the story emerges is made up of only words. This is the art of theatre at its best, and for some reason that seems to get communicated more thoroughly in confines this small in size.
“A View of the Mountains” is a sequel to “A Walk in the Woods,” Mr. Blessing’s earlier play about a US arms negotiator and his Russian counterpart. Thirty years later, we encounter that arms negotiator in his comfortable home on the Hudson anticipating an uncomfortable visit from his son, the junior senator from Tennessee, radically different from his father in political ideology.
What transpires is the acting out of differences within a family – memories, anger, disappointment, comedy – physical comedy – and the revelation of secrets…
Eva Kaminsky embodies the role of Gwynn, the senator’s wife. She’s comic in the extreme, energetic, highly expressive, single-minded, an audience magnet. John Little as the arms negotiator is reflective and strategic; he gives us a man with experience. Katrina Ferguson as the negotiator’s wife strikes the right ironic balance; a late entrant into this family drama, she is alternately amazed and amused. Michael Zlabinger as “Will” has very little will; he convincingly shows us someone under the influence of external circumstances and forces, including his own wife. The teenage son of the arms negotiation and Ilsa, half-brother to Will, is played with complete familiarity by Jon Erik Nielsen or Jared Rush in different performances.
A View of the Mountains by Lee Blessing – Directed by Evan Bergman; set design Jessica Parks; lighting design Jill Nagle; costume design Patricia E. Doherty; properties Jessica Parks; technical director Michael “Rusty” Carroll; stage manager Jennifer Tardibuono; fight director Brad Lemons.
Performances through May 25: Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm and selected Sundays at 7pm. New Jersey Repertory Company; 179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740 (732) 229-3166 http://www.njrep.org/