Falco, Pill enliven static play

New York: ‘This Wide Night’ was commissioned and first presented by Clean Break, a London theatre company that works with women who are enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

No doubt this target audience will be greatly affected by Chloe Moss` play about the reunion of two former inmates. But mainly it is the superlative acting of Edie Falco and Alison Pill that provides compensation for the familiar aspects of this static drama, which is playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre through June 20.

As the play begins, 50-year-old Lorraine (Edie Falco) -- newly released from prison after a 12-year stint for murder -- arrives at the seedy flat of the much younger Marie (Pill), who has been free for several years. The women have an uneasy reunion, with the hardened Marie less than thrilled by the arrival of her former cellmate. Nonetheless, she allows her to stay, at first for one night and then for an extended time. As the visit wears on, details of the women`s relationship and their situation gradually trickle forth. Marie apparently is working at a pub, though one eventually learns otherwise, and Lorraine is desperate to reunite with her long-estranged adult son. Their time together generally consists of eating takeout pizza while watching the flickering images on Marie`s broken-down silent television.

Little happens during the course of the play`s 90 minutes, and the banal conversation, while having the ring of truth, fails to compel attention. But under the direction of Anne Kauffman, the actresses provide such superb performances -- marked by precise body language and silences that register with more impact than much of the dialogue -- that the evening takes on a greater weight.

A vanity-free and severely deglamorized Falco gives her initially vulnerable Lorraine some intriguingly harsh shadings, and Pill -- who recently starred in the too-short-lived Broadway revival of ‘The Miracle Worker’ -- provides a carefully measured, subtle turn that makes clear the little girl underneath the hard-edged young woman.

Bureau Report