BWW Review: A satisfyingly eerie FAR AWAY at PTP/NYC
Caryl Churchill's 2000 play nicely fits into a streaming format
A good creepy play can get under the viewer's skin. Caryl Churchill's Far Away is one such piece. The setting is a "familiar country, over the period of several decades." While the country may be familiar, the goings on are most certainly not. A sense of dread, foreboding and discomfort hook you in quickly until it is impossible to put your feet on solid ground.
Premiering in 2000, this play is considered one of Ms. Churchill's finest works. It is easy to see why PTP/NYC chose this as one of their four streamed shows this fall. The people who inhabit this world don't trust other people, are lied to and suspect widespread corruption in companies and government. Furthermore, alliances are breaking down and reforming in an increasingly dangerous and hostile world.
The first part is a conversation between young Joan (Lilah May Pfeiffer) and her Aunt Harper (Nesba Crenshaw). Joan is having trouble going to bed. Her Aunt advises that it's often difficult when in a new place. Joan disagrees. She's been many places. Why is she here? That is not explained. The beauty of the writing in Far Away lies in its murkiness.
Joan slipped out of her bedroom window earlier that evening and climbed onto a tree. She caught a glimpse of her Uncle outside in the darkness. What was he doing? Her Aunt tells her that he likes to get fresh air. Joan claimed she heard a noise? What kind of noise? The answers are vague. Through a series of half-truths and outright lies from her Aunt, Joan continues to pry. What is the world she inhabits that makes her so penetratingly perceptive?
In the middle section of this play, Joan is older (Caitlin Duffy) and has just begun a job in a hatmaking company. She is conversing with Todd (Ro Boddie), a more experienced hatmaker. There seems to be a never ending need for hats. They are used in the parades. Todd remarks one day that he is tired since he stayed up late watching the trials. As time passes their relationship grows. Is there something untrustworthy about this company and the government which needs to be disclosed?
The final section broadens the scope of this play to consider a world in conflict. Living beings are destroying alliances and forging new ones. The mysteries deepen the intrigue. What exactly happened "when the elephants went to the Dutch"? When this play ends after forty minutes, everything and nothing is illuminated. This is a foggy, eerily conceived dystopia and an immensely satisfying glimpse of an uncertain future.
Cheryl Faraone directed this production which works nicely in a streamed format. The performances are all quite good and I was hooked from start to finish. This play is especially recommended for those want to be on the right side of history. In Far Away, it is not easy to discern good vs. evil. That's not unlike our world in 2020. In America today, so many people define those two seemingly simple terms differently.
Far Away is streaming until midnight on Sunday, October 18, 2020 and can be accessed via the PTP/NYC website.