“Destroying David” another exciting production from Harbinger Theatre
It’s not too often that one has the opportunity to feel as if you are actually immersed in a theatrical production as an audience member. Such is the case with Harbinger Theatre‘s latest production, Jason Odell Williams’s “Destroying David”. Harbinger’s founder, Patrick White continues to break ground and stir the theatrical landscape of the Capital Region with this exciting new show. The play takes place in front of Michelangelo’s David, and the play is being performed in the Opalka Gallery on the Albany Campus of Russell Sage College. This offers unique opportunities, first, what better spot to talk about art, than an art gallery, second, with art all around the audience and behind the performers, it makes the audience become one with the production.
The show centers around an art restorer who has lost his partner, David, to heart cancer, and now is wrestling with if he should destroy the “other” David, depriving the world of the loss of perfection and beauty. He is so wracked with pain that he wants to lash out and have the world feel his pain. Harbinger’s founder Patrick White stars as the Restorer, and Chris Foster, another well-known face on the Capital Region theater scene, is David, and multiple other characters in the Restorer’s mind, after 6, I lost count. White and Foster have been involved in 40 productions together.
The play is a tour de force for White, who never leaves the stage for the 70-minute run. He speaks directly to the audience as well as to the imagined characters in his head. Foster with numerous wig and costume changes, plays a huge range from slapstick broad comic to intimate heartfelt sympathetic moments. Foster uses the aisles for his broad entrances and exits so that one is never certain where he will appear next.
White runs the gamut of emotions from pain and anger to outrage and cynicism and love. His conversation with the audience draws you in as if you are the psychiatrist listening in on a patient’s sessions. White’s opening night performance got off to a bit of a shaky start, with dropped lines and what appeared to have been nerves. Once he got rolling, it was like a master class in performing. He reached out to the audience and grabbed them taking them on the emotional roller coaster ride of his life. Foster is a sheer delight from start to finish.
If there are any downsides to the show, it is the play itself. This is the first time the show has been performed, so one can only assume it is in somewhat of a workshop mode, when Williams has the characters on the top of their game, it simply flies along. Just when you are tearing up, he deftly breaks the tension and has you laughing out loud. The comic parts of the play are spot on, it is the more dramatic moments that he tends to linger over longer than necessary. Add to that, Amy Haausknecht made her directorial debut. She needs to be given credit for taking on such an emotionally complex play as her maiden voyage. She does an adequate job moving the production, though what we are missing is the emotional nuances in White’s performance that could have been massaged under a more experienced director. She tends not to allow him to build to emotional peaks, rather she has him at a fervor pitch through most of the play.
On the whole. “Destroying David” has us questioning many of the flawed things about life, love, loss and the fragility of the world around us. A very relevant message in today’s troubled world.
The show’s short run winds up this Saturday. It is very much worth your time to see whether or not all of the Davids live or die and what comes from despair and heartbreak. To boot, you’ll get two shows for the price of one… get to the gallery early and enjoy the art before the live art begins.
Immerse yourself in all that the Capital Region has to offer. Kudos to Harbinger for once again trying something new and exciting and continuing to shake up the art scene around us.
“Destroying David” runs April 12, 13, 15 & 16 at the Opalka Gallery on New Scotland Ave. For ticket information go to actingclasswithpatrickwhite.net.