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A Second Chance

The Door

Tony Earnshaw's one-act play about two men in a waiting room aims for existentialism, but it is ultimately just irritating.

By New York City
Tom Cobley and Chris Westgate in The Door
(© Tony Earnshaw)
Tom Cobley and Chris Westgate in The Door
(© Tony Earnshaw)
The title object in Tony Earnshaw's one-act play, The Door, now at 59E59 Theatres, is never seen but often heard, punctuating many tense moments between Ryan (Chris Westgate) and Boyd (Tom Cobley). The two sit in a nondescript waiting room and talk about the unpleasant thwacks of said door without either attempting to do anything about it.

As envisioned by director Anna Adams, this is one large piece of carpentry to make the sound that it does -- there's a warning posted in the theater's lobby that's usually reserved for gunshots and nudity. It's as if this particular door is weathering some kind of natural disaster for the 50 minutes we hear it.

But mostly, it's just a cheap device that allows Earnshaw's characters to talk around what's really on their mind. Earnshaw seems to be aiming for Beckettian existentialism, but the exercise simply comes off as rather juvenile.

We hear the first thwack before a word is uttered, and then Boyd launches into a rant: "Drives you round the bloody bend, doesn't it. Round the bloody bend...the bloody door, always bloody banging. Listen...Silence. Then just as you relax." That's when the door slams again in predictable fashion, followed by Ryan telling Boyd to go shut the door.

This exchange is repeated countless times, sometimes with the roles reversed, to the point of irritation. Perhaps, Earnshaw is attempting to create the gravitas that Beckett builds throughout Waiting for Godot, so that by the final moment when Vladimir tells Estragon, "yes, let's go," nobody expects them to move, but Earnshaw never makes these moments feel more than mere theatricality.

Fortunately, there's a story between Ryan and Boyd (a soldier drama of sorts), and Cobley and Westgate relish the dialogue when they get to the heart of it midway through the play. However, their best efforts can't elevate it beyond trifling melodrama. In these sections, the door bangs less, highlighting just how forced a device it is.


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