By Holli Harms

Two small homes are outlined side by side in the middle of the vastness of nature, the sun will shine on the homes and the snow will fall. Time passes, as these two companions, two writers, contemplate the daily battle of purpose and what it might bring or should bring or will bring. The purpose of love? The purpose of writing?

Their spaces are almost identical, both with a typewriter, stool, and small table. They share patio space and ramps to and from their homes. They will step out, and stay in, and dance for us, and dance for themselves. They will speak, sometimes to us, often to one another. They will live in long moments of silence, sitting and doing nothing, or typing words that we have no idea if the words at all make sense and story. They will love one another, and disappoint, as the seasons change and time marches on. They contemplate and debate the freedom that comes with living an existential existence and the nightmare of every decision and choice that falls on the individual. It’s why religion can have such a strong hold on us. It tells us how to live. Choices are limited to the parameters of the religious doctrine. Freeing us up to not have to think all the time. This is Existentialism now playing at La Mama.

Anne Bogart’s (writer/director) minimalism of movement and words translates beautifully through this voyage of two lives, in their golden years, looking at their existence that was and is, and will be.  Everything on that stage will be used and explored. Nothing is there as a filler or eye candy on Anna Kiraly‘s wonderful set enhanced by Brian H Scott’s lighting. Both lend to the creation of a world where two people exist simply for themselves and one another.

Bogart was inspired by the true life-partners, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. They were partners, created a family, but lived separately in homes side by side.

Existentialism opens with He (Paul Zimet) entering the space in coat and hat and standing silent, facing us, taking us in, and then speaking, “Be quiet… I’m going to smile deep into your pupils.” His face, full of his age, slowly lifts, the mouth forming a smile. A good smile. A deep smile. We smile back, some laugh. We are together for this time and he says, “There may be more beautiful times but this one is ours.” And so it is. Ellen Maddow (She), her spritely self, tells us at one point that “The world becomes more a part of me as it enters through my mouth.” Oh, delicious world that the whole audience brings in.

The dialogue is rich with moments of thought on our existence. He tells us “There is only one day left, always starting over. It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.” What a way of looking at life! It is itself freeing. She reminds us of the power of attitude, “I cannot always choose what happens to me, But I can choose what to make of it.”

Both of these consummate performers radiate their light in this meditative performance. They are sublime exuberance.

Existentialism Created and Directed by Anne Bogart in collaboration with Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet (Talking Band)

Creative Team: Set Design by Anna Kiraly, Lighting Design by Brian H Scott, Costume Design by Gabriel Berry
Sound Design by Darron L West, Production Stage Manager: Patrick Dunning, Assistant Stage Manager: Hanna Yurfest

La Mama Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: Adults: $40
Students/Seniors: $35
The first 10 tickets are $10 (limit 2 per person)

Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission