New York City has become a war zone in Adam Rapp's Through the Yellow Hour, at Rattlestick Playwright's Theater. This world premiere, directed by the playwright, is unremittingly bleak, but a committed cast helps to make it consistently compelling.
The action takes place in a tiny, bombed out apartment, with stained walls and the ceiling half caved in (the brilliantly evocative scenic design is by Andromoche Chalfant). This is the home of Ellen (Hani Furstenberg), who refuses to give it up, even now that her husband has gone missing.
The unseen invaders of the city, nicknamed "Egg Heads" due to the headgear that they wear, are at first presumed to be of Arab origin. However, escaped prisoner Hakim (Alok Tewari) casts doubt on this theory, saying that many aren't even Muslim and are simply playing a part.
Hakim's description of the torture that he and other prisoners were subjected to is related in grisly detail. However, it's far from the only uncomfortable moment in a play filled with violence and the use of nudity in a manner that borders on the exploitative.
Furstenberg delivers a layered performance that taps into Ellen's fear, grief, courage, recklessness, compassion, and more. Danielle Slavik has a similarly complex take on her character, Maude, who is a drug addict and new mother trying to make a deal that will get her to safety.
Tewari's appearance in the play ratchets up the tension levels, while Vladimir Versailles proves memorable as the soft-spoken Darius. Joanne Tucker is creepily effective as the pristinely dressed Claire, with the cast rounded out by Brian Mendes, whose character is killed off early on, and Matt Pilieci, as Doctor Joseph.
It's not completely clear what Rapp intends to say via this apocalyptic vision of the future – and perhaps there is no underlying meaning to uncover. The playwright/director might simply be spinning a nightmarish "what if" scenario extrapolated from our society's contemporary fears.
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