by Lynn on March 1, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Le Parker Meridien, Room 3412, New York City, N.Y.

Written by Neena Beber
Directed by Theresa Rebeck
Scenic and lighting design by Christpher and Justin Swader
Sound by Bart Fasbender
Cast: Lani Fu
John Glover
Hettienne Park

A site-specific, in-your-face, dangerous production of a play that is intriguing.

Full disclosure: I flew to New York for one day this week to see this because my friend John Glover was in it. He and the production were well worth the trip.

The Story. Laszlo is a celebrated Polish director and is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work. The ceremony is in London. Vivian is an American woman who has flown from California, to his hotel room to confront him. Twenty-five years before, in California, Laszlo got her drunk on champagne and raped her. She was 13.

The lead-up was that Vivian’s mother thought Vivian should be in movies, even at that young age. Laszlo was a photographer/director at the time and took pictures of Vivian. They appeared to be seductive and suggestive. Matters escalated until the rape Now Vivian has sought him out for closure? To confront him? To scare him with arrest? He was charged. There was a trial but Laszlo escaped to Europe rather than face the consequences.

The Production. Since the play is set in a hotel room, the production, in fact, takes place in room 3412 of Le Parker Meridien Hotel in New York City. Audience capacity: 20. We meet in the lobby of the hotel. A young man with a clipboard checks off our names and we are taken up to the room by elevator. We are told to sit in any of the tanned chairs situated around the room.

The bed is rumpled. There is stuff around the room suggesting a person is there—eye-glasses on the table, a fruit basket on the corner of the couch by the window. There is a clock by the bed that shows the actual time.

A man is taking a shower in the bathroom. He horks, spits and coughs a few times. There is a knock at the door and he yells from the shower “It’s open.” The person doesn’t hear clearly what he said and says, “What?” The man yells back that it’s open and a woman enters and nonchalantly checks out the room. The man comes out of the bathroom wearing in a towel around his waist and is startled to see this woman there. He was expecting a masseuse.

This is Laszlo and she is Vivian. My sense from this startled encounter is that Laszlo seems to recognize her, even after 25 years. Hmmmm.

For much of the compelling 80 minutes of the production Vivian has control. Laszlo, as played by John Glover, is a bit skittish, eager to please (she is peckish and empties the mini-bar), and always thinking on how to turn the tables and get control of her, and I don’t mean violently. At one point Vivian sits in a chair on wheels and Laszlo is standing. He comes towards her and Vivian rolls backwards to get away from him.

As Vivian, Hettienne Park is relaxed for the most part. She is ‘pumped’ of course because she will face this guy for the first time and she will have surprise on her side. Except for that bit in the rolling chair, Vivian is in control. She spits a drink in his face and even throws one at him. Laszlo does a lot of changing of his sweaters. She is also inexpressive for much of it, perhaps to unsettle him.

Halfway into the production the younger version of Vivian (Lani Fu) bursts out of an armoire that is in the room. That catches us by surprise. She is there to re-enact the scenes where Laszlo is seducing her and later in court. Hettienne Park plays a hard-nosed lawyer to Lani Fu’s young Vivian. Young Vivian tries to recall what happened and how.

Director Theresa Rebeck has the power shift from Vivian and Laszlo in an even, taut manner. John Glover gives Laszlo a slight Polish accent and the charming finesse of a man used to getting what he wants from people, be it in a photo, a scene in a movie, or into bed. He philosophizes easily about life, art, and his difficult marriage; he doesn’t yell; he reasons reasonably and yet he is wary. There is always a sense of danger and possible violence in the production.

Comment. A Foreign Body certainly references Roman Polanski’s legal problems when he drugged and had sex with a minor in California years ago. I also thought of echoes of Blackbird by David Harrower too.

I must confess I think Neena Beber’s writing is a bit heavy handed with Laszlo philosophizing so much to Vivian. I know he is trying to deflect the seriousness of the situation and perhaps he is trying in his way to reason with Vivian. I thought that could have been tightened a bit.

Laszlo asked Vivian repeatedly what she wants from him. She mentions ‘closure’ or to confront him. I just want to know why? She suggests that he could be arrested right there in London. Is it a threat? Does she want that? She doesn’t say. This aspect is too vague. That should be tightened I think. Laszlo asks if she wants to continue where they left off 25 years before. Now that’s bold.

Interesting play in a gripping production in which we are within blinking distance of the action. Terrific experience.

Presented by The Orchard Project.

Opened: February 10, 2016.
Closes: February 28, 2016.
Cast: 3; 1 man, 2 women.
Running Time: 80 minutes.

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