by Raphael Badagliacca
Are there really any accidents? STRUCK, the newest world premiere running at the New Jersey Repertory Company, begins with a pedestrian accident – Vera Resnick is hit by a bicyclist while walking in Greenwich Village. But there is nothing pedestrian and nothing accidental about the success of this play, from the usual, meticulous NJ Rep set through the script and direction which give the characters clear, distinct voices – a whirlwind of viewpoints – that their excellent performances eagerly embrace.
There is intrigue. Do “accidental” events have some greater meaning? The quick-paced dialogue surrounds the question. Everyone is somewhat right and somewhat wrong, just like in real life, which we are reminded by events in the play, begins with a miraculous ”accident” of sorts.
Vera (Susan Maris) is an actress living on the upper west side with her husband Nate (Adam Bradley), a sensible, divorce attorney who, in lawyerly fashion, has been trained to put evidence before belief. He continually provides evidence for us that he loves his wife. Vera, searching for a larger meaning, is unafraid to pursue it down questionable paths. Vicky (Jenny Bacon), the neighbor, is a Texas transplant, who seems to periodically transport to another dimension. She plays her part with remarkable verve, a wacky catalyst to the verbal action.
James (Ben Puvalowski) is the contrite bicyclist, bearing gifts that temper the unfortunate collision. “Aren’t you the surprise of the day?” says an initially skeptical Vicky. And her intuition is right.
Range is the mark of great acting. We first saw Susan Maris at NJ Rep in The Substance of Bliss, where she played a troubled suburban housewife concerned about things that could not be fixed, unlike Vera, intent to find meaning and harmony across time. A perusal of the play notes shows that Jenny Bacon won the standby part of sadistic fan Annie Wilkes in Broadway’s recent staging of Stephen King’s Misery. I can’t think of wider range than between that character and Vicky in STRUCK.
Matthew Shepherd plays Bertrand. But to explain who he is would take the intrigue out of Sandy Rustin’s carefully constructed plot which is as expertly developed as her dialogue itself. After all what is a play except a meaningful drama that emerges from a collection of words? This set of words is contemporary, historical, and universal.
Written by Sandy Rustin directed by Don Stephenson; set design & props, Jessica Parks; lighting designer, Jill Nagle; technical director, Brian P. Snyder; sound designer, Merek Royce Press costume designer, Patricia E. Doherty; stage manager, Jennifer Tardibuono.
With: Jenny Bacon, Adam Bradley, Susan Maris, Ben Puvalowski, and Matthew Shepherd.
At NJ Repertory Company (179 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ — 732-229-3166; NJRep.org) through July 31. Thursdays & Fridays 8pm; Saturdays 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.