By Tulis McCall
Her Requiem, now at the beautiful Claire Tow Theater, Lincoln Center, is the story about a teenage girl consumed with the task of writing a Requiem. It is, however, the story OF the two men who are waging a battle to be the girl’s champion. Greg Pierce writes a wandering path that leads to the showdown, and these actors bring their A-game all the way through.
Caitlin ((Naian Gonzalez Norvind)) is so consumed with her composing that she has taken a year off from school to devote herself to the task. She secludes herself in her bedroom with her pad and computer. Her mother Allison (Mare Winingham) frets so much that her presence is a distraction to Caitlin. The only person to visit egularly is Tommy the tutor (Robbie Collier Sublett), Caitlin’s violin teacher and a former seminarian who still reeks of dogma. In addition her father Dean (Peter Friedman), a chronically unemployed and very smart man, who is a walking compendium of useless knowledge, has way too much time on his hands and gladly devotes a good portion of it to being a cheerleader for his child prodigy. To that end he is magnanimous with his gestures of good will extended to anyone who take an interest in his daughter.
First among them is Tommy, with whom Dean shares intimate conversations tracking Caitlin’s work. For some reason her care and feeding has been handed over to Tommy’s jurisdiction. Because he believes that her work is Sublime, Dean is all in. Allison, however, remains Devil’s Advocate and thinks there house has been turned into a shrine that celebrates death.
Indeed a requiem is the music for mass for the dead. The l-o-n-g mass. And everyone has had a crack at this form from Mozart to Verdi to – well, you know all those white boys. Which is another point in Caitlin’s chosen adventure. Few women composers are known for requiems.
Caitlin’s composing creates a rift in the family. Allison sees the danger and Dean can only see the possibilities. The addition of visiting youg’uns that Dean has culled from the internet (he writes the text for Caitlin’s blog (required by her school in trade for taking the year off) tips the scale toward the absurd. Although Keilly McQuail gives a nuanced performance as the Goth in charge of the never-seen kids sleeping in the barn, their place in the story feels awkward and unnecessary. Ditto the presence of Gram (Joyce Van Patten) who is about to be moved to assisted living. This nuclear family is plenty on their own.
In the end, it comes down to the two men battling it out. Who really places Caitlin above himself and who is angling to control her? The confrontation instead of pushing the women further back into the dark, pulls them out into the light – and this is an unusual touch. It is the women who sort through the ballast in this tale. It just takes the author a long time to get us there. Next outing we would all be okay with getting there sooner and opening up the gates leading out of archetypes into the unknown.
PS – regarding the scene changes – can we clear up the beer bottles when the scene moves ahead a month? Ditto the rest of the detritus: papers, books, teacups. Actors are being asked to ignore the clutter that the rest of us see.
Her Requiem By Greg Pierce; directed by Kate Whoriskey
WITH: Peter Friedman (Dean), Kelly McQuail (Mirtis Paima), Naian González Norvind (Caitlin), Robbie Collier Sublett (Tommy), Joyce Van Patten (Gram) and Mare Winningham (Allison).
Sets by Derek McLane; costumes by Jessica Pabst; lighting by Amith Chandrashaker; sound by Joshua Schmidt; stage manager, Donald Fried; general manager, Jessica Niebanck; production manager, Paul Smithyman. Presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Claire Tow, Andre Bishop, producing artistic director; Adam Siegel, managing director; Paige Evans, artistic director/LCT3. Through March 20 at the Claire Tow Theater, Lincoln Center, 212-239-6200, lct3.org. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.