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Fall to Earth Reviews
Brent Vimtrup recieves a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination for his work in InProximity's production of Sight Unseen.
GALO Magazine calls Inproximity
"A Company to Watch."
Read the article by clicking HERE.
Originally mounted by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre in 2004, Joel Drake Johnson’s dysfunctional-family drama is exactly the kind of play the famed company favors: potent, devastating and unsentimental, with an abundance of meaty exchanges for strong actors like the excellent ones here. Chatterbox Fay (Hedwall, superb) and her chilly daughter Rachel (Curtsinger, cofounder of InProximity, the troupe behind this production) trade awkward pleasantries and nasty barbs in an economy hotel room. It’s clear they don’t see each other much—Fay’s never met her grandson or even seen his photo—but they’ve come together to claim the body of Kenny, Rachel’s brother. His death in an unnamed Podunk and the concern of an insecure local policewoman (Campbell) serve as the catalysts for some disturbing revelations about who these ladies really are and what they’re capable of.
You’ve probably seen people like these before, but rarely so powerfully written and portrayed. Johnson’s naturalistic dialogue and Joe Brancato’s meticulous direction prize characters over plot, and the three performers make the troubles of these little women seem like Greek tragedy. While certainly not groundbreaking theater, it’s the kind of stuff that leaves you wiping your eyes and longing to go home and hug your loved ones. The Fall to Earth makes you feel its impact.
Time Out New York
4 stars and Cirtic's Pick
The Fall to Earth, now at59E59 Theaters under the direction of Joe Brancato, starts out as a delicate and moving study in grief. Fay (Deborah Hedwall) and her daughter Rachel (Jolie Curtsinger, giving an excellent, fully dimensional performance) arrive in a small town to collect the body of their son and brother Kenny, who has died under mysterious circumstances.
The strength of this production is the ensemble cast. All 3 women give honest, gritty performances, and it is the power of their relationship, their ease on stage, and ability to play off each other, that carries the play and keeps it compelling.
Deborah Hedwall as Fay is slightly mad, but it’s her rich emotional depth that makes us feel for Fay past her craziness. Hedwall is in complete command of her instrument and is able to flip from funny to scary with no problem.
Jolie Curtsinger as Rachel, the embittered daughter, is infuriating in a good way. She keeps the pressure on her mother and does so through a series of lies of her own. Curtsinger conveys the disgust of a daughter who’s witnessed the tyranny of an abusive parent. Her rage at her mother and sadness for her brother are balanced nicely.
Amelia Campbell as Terry the cop is terrific. Campbell plays the skittish and unsure cop with aplomb. Campbell has an extremely mobile face, and is able to move through a series of complex emotions and insecurities while standing completely still.
Joe Brancato directs the play with simple subtlety and allows the actors to create the realities of their characters. Surrounding himself with such a talented trio must make any director’s job easier and more enjoyable. This gives Brancato the chance to fine tune these characters, and he guides them through some very interesting emotional details.
James J. Fenton’s set design creates an emotionally dead motel room, and his color schemes create the mood of the play perfectly. Lighting by Todd Wren and costumes by Patricia Doherty also fit perfectly with the play’s tone.
In The Fall to Earth, Deborah Hedwall gives a nearly flawless performance as Fay, a mother who has traveled across the country to address the tragic and mysterious events leading to her son's death. Through interactions with her daughter and a local policewoman, we gradually see a complete portrait of a seemingly sweet middle-aged woman suppressing her tendency toward rage and living in denial about how her past actions have helped lead to this dark outcome. Playwright Joe Drake Johnson has created a subtle, concise, powerful piece that reveals hidden depths and stays with the audience long after it ends.”
Before Fay and Rachel enter, we know what kind of relationship they have. As the quarrelsome mother and passive daughter bicker about the use of motel keycards—"Does this make the world a better place?" Fay shouts in her grating tones—playwright Joel Drake Johnson illustrates more than just the generational divide between the pair.
When they burst into a dark, manicured motel room (pristine set design by James J. Fenton), it's clear that there's a loaded history here. Fay's incessant ramblings begin as endearing and increasingly become annoying, but Deborah Hedwall doesn't falter in an unwavering performance. She makes a screwed-up character relatable and fully commits to Fay's disintegration. Johnson wisely never confirms or denies Fay and Rachel's past, though Rachel has the stronger, more reasonable voice in their arguments. As Terry, the police officer assigned to the case, Amelia Campbell initially comes across as stilted and then slowly melts into a multifaceted portrayal of this small-town cop struggling to balance work and family. In a scene in which Terry brings Fay dinner, Campbell ricochets among sympathetic companion, powerful law offer, and insecure woman with ease, even though Johnson establishes the characters' relationship through forced and coincidental occurrences, right down to sons who have the same name. Jolie Curtsinger's Rachel is an outsider for most of the play, but her level-headedness keeps the audience guessing about Fay.
Director Joe Brancato maintains a steady rhythm, and with so many shifting emotions floating around, he makes sure that every actor hits her mark.
The three-woman cast is impeccable. Deborah Hedwall’s performance is outstanding as she takes us on an emotional rollercoaster that reveals the many nuances of Fay’s complicated, tormented character. As Fay’s moods change on a dime, Hedwall transforms seamlessly from a cheerful, unsophisticated Midwestern wife and mother to a frightening, enraged woman who is out of control.
As Rachel, Jolie Curtsinger succeeds in the difficult task of playing opposite the all-consuming Fay, who barely gives her a chance to speak. Until Rachel finally confronts her mother late in the play, Curtsinger’s facial expressions and body language convey exactly how she feels about Fay and reflect the tension in their relationship. Amelia Campbell is perfect as Terry Reed, a sympathetic police investigator and mother of two with her own family problems, who helps mother and daughter learn about what happened to Kenny.
This is not a conventional mother/daughter drama, but for those who are prepared for an evening of gut-wrenching theater that tackles some heavy issues, The Fall to Earth takes an engrossing look at the unraveling of one family.
Show Business Weekly
BOTTOM LINE: A brilliantly written and constructed play dealing with issues of suicide and family dysfunction.
In the opening minutes of Joel Drake Johnson’s terrific play, The Fall to Earth, now playing at 59E59 Theaters, we are treated to a quintessential manifestation of that mother-daughter dynamic. Fay Schorsch (Deborah Hedwall) and her adult daughter Rachel Browney (Jolie Curtsinger) have just checked in to a run-of-the-mill motel.
But there is much more to this play than first meets the eye. Fay and Rachel are not just seeking to bond through some shared “girls’ night out” experience. On the contrary, they are engaged in fulfilling the unpleasant duty of identifying and claiming the body of Kenny, Fay’s son and Rachel’s brother who, as we quickly learn, committed suicide. As the play unfolds, we learn a great deal more - not just about Kenny's death, but about the relationships between Kenny, Fay, Rachel, and Kenny's absent father.
Johnson has constructed an intricate, intelligent play that captures your attention at the outset and never lets go. His ear for dialogue is first-rate. Curtsinger (who is also the co-founder of InProximity Theatre Company, the company presenting this New York City premiere) does an absolutely brilliant job in her role as Rachel. And Hedwall is just incredible in the multi-faceted role of Fay.
Theatre is Easy
Playwright Joel Drake Johnson has an extraordinary talent for manipulative construction. Down the garden path we go successively intrigued, involved, and engrossed. Well placed disclosures are often imaginatively formatted. Characters are fully dimensional relating to one another with authenticity. He’s a marvelous storyteller, articulate, entertaining and moving. This is time well spent.
Deborah Hedwall (Fay) offers a virtuoso performance. Never still, rarely silent, her every word, move and sigh embodies the character. From a pitch perfect mid-western accent and appropriate bearing to visible signs of interior dialogue and untelegraphed emotional explosions, Hedwall’s acting creates a riveting and very specific presence. Surprising use of song and call-outs to Kenny are beautifully calibrated. She is the glue and the fuel. Brava.
Jolie Curtsinger (Rachel) does a fine job in a difficult role. Portraying boiling restraint, her responses must at all times be cognizant of a back-story of which the audience is long unaware. The actress’s focus creates necessary tension and an able foil. In retrospect one can fully appreciate her skill.
Amelia Campell’s Terry is friendly, excessively sensitive, proud, and emphatically small town. The actress’s artful speech patterns (shades of Fargo) and quick, insecure gestures reflect not only the locale but a visceral map to Terry’s personality. Campbell’s timing is terrific. She’s convincing even in the aforementioned unlikely scene with Terry.
Director Joe Brancato has orchestrated a compellingly watchable and satisfying evening of theater. Filled with marvelous, character defining stage business, emotional insight, and adroit pacing, the play is superbly served.
Woman Around Town
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