It is particularly poignant to be publishing this review on the 11th of September. The lingering image I was left with after watching Cindy Bloes and Lina Peller command the makeshift stage at the Kinoler in Kahler was the iconic photo by Richard Drew of “The Falling Man”, taken on that fateful day 19 years ago. 9/11 is only specifically mentioned once in Sherry Kramer’s text, but the whole play is about falling, both physically and metaphorically.
It is also, as the title proclaims, about death. Not just the specific death of David but also, as we are told in what is an unnecessarily lengthy exposition at the very start of the piece, about the weight of all the deaths we experience in a lifetime, either personally or vicariously.
Cindy Bloes as Jean delivers this mini lecture with aplomb, but it is an unfortunate weak point in the play--if an author cannot express what they want through dialogue and monologues that drive the narrative, then the audience feels they are in trouble.
Luckily, the piece immediately picks up pace and emotional engagement as Jean meets Marilyn (Lina Peller) and the two, recognising each other as kindred spirits, redheaded twins even, fall in love.
That love is overshadowed, however, by David’s death. But it is not without humour, much of which derives from Jean’s unhealthy, in more ways than one, obsession with McDonald’s or the fun the redheads make of their common acquaintance, the slimey Bob.
Director Tony Kingston, ably assisted by Tiara Partsch, have brilliantly staged the play to keep the dynamic between the two lovers flowing. The text is complex, but the directors make sure the performance does not get bogged down in over-philosophising and that the focus is squarely on the two actresses and their interaction.
Credit must also go to designer Ilaria Galeota and support on stage from Laura Burman and Lara O’Donnell, who not only play mechanics and McDonald’s servers as well as grieving relatives, but also serve as stage hands who ensure props are delivered to the two leads--another clever device that propels the narrative seamlessly.
It is a play of two distinct halves. Jean dominates the first part, and the elegant Bloes delivers a performance that is both wonderfully poised and exuberant. She has the charisma to carry the two-hander for the first 55 minutes--Jean is a super-charged redhead (with dyed hair) who seems to always get what she wants. Marilyn, in the hands of Peller, is more down to earth, a beauty who is hesitantly seductive and slowly reveals her character’s true attributes.
Indeed, the second half belongs to Peller, as Marilyn is shown to be the emotionally stronger of the two--she is a natural redhead after all. Her monologue about another iconic photo, that of Evelyn McHale's body lying on a crumpled Dodge car after she threw herself from the Empire State Building in 1947, is powerful stuff.
If the first half hints at the outcome of the relationship between Jean and Marilyn, the second part opens with an emotional earthquake. The actresses are never better than during a phone call between Jean and her parents--Peller voices the mother and father, and it is the latter’s brave steadfastness in the face of tragedy that brings tears to the audience.
Be prepared for heartbreak.
The BGT production of Sherry Kramer’s "David’s Redhaired Death” is scheduled to play at KINOLER, 38 rue Principale, L-8376 Kahler on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 September at 7.30pm, with an additional matinée performance on the 12th at 2.30pm. All performances are sold out, but there may be some returns. Ticket info here.