Reviews

Yosemite: Rattlestick Theater - New York

Noah Galvin
Photo Credits: Daniel Talbott

In Yosemite, Talbott puts a very real face on poverty.

Yosemite

City: New York
Venue: Rattlestick Theatre

Daniel Talbott's play, Yosemite, is about poverty -- being trapped in an unrelentingly cold place. Set designer, Raul Abrego, creates almost a contemporary art installation in physically constructing this metaphor. He transforms the Rattlestick Theater into the snow-covered Sierra Nevada woods, including a wide dirt hole, descending more than five feet beneath the floor. A whistling wind, during the play's otherwise silent moments, conveys a chilling reality of the world.

High school teenager, Jake (Seth Numrich), digs a grave, with his sister, Ruby (Libby Woodbridge) and brother, Jer (Noah Galvin). They are burying their baby brother, a corpse wrapped inside a black, garbage plastic bag. In the process, the family also unearths their difficulties and humiliations of being poor.

Last spring, to enhance my perspectives in writing theatre reviews, I took a site-specific directing class at Primary Stages, Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA) where Daniel Talbott was the instructor. I interviewed him about his latest play and asked "why poverty?" In Yosemite, Talbott puts a very real face on poverty.

"It's the most personal play, I've ever written, by far", Talbott said.

Talbott's parents were young teenagers when he was born. He described them as hippies who rebelled against their established Californian families. Talbott witnessed first-hand the effects that poverty has upon people. When Talbott's mother became involved in drugs, he moved in with his grandparents.

"The whole play is based on my family. The mom is pieces of my mom. She's also pieces of my grandmother and myself and pieces of my sister. They are all pieces of people. And for me the play is most personally about not having a dad", said Talbott, whose father left his mother, while the playwright was still a very young child.

In tapping into his own life experiences, Talbott presents raw, emotionally authentic characters.

Jake fights with his mother, Julie (Kathryn Erbe), both screaming, claiming the other one is guilty. Julie accuses her son of being ungrateful, lazy, lying around and always complaining that he didn't get what he wanted. Jake accuses his mother of always selfishly putting herself before her kids and leaving them as good as dead. Usually, I vehemently dislike shouting in small theatres unless well reasoned and necessary. However, with this production, I sensed a genuine honesty to a deep-seated rage at a level which I have not witnessed in any theatre in a long time.

The scene quietly shifts to the play's most poignant moment. Although young, Galvin shows finely tuned acting skills which express a tender vulnerability. He portrays a younger brother, with simplicity, tagging along his siblings. Yet he also captures the sadness of the family's daunting struggles.

"Maybe Grandma will take us all to Disneyland. Like maybe, we can all go. We can all go together. And live down there, with her together. Maybe we can all. We can all get jobs there. Get jobs together and work at Disneyland. Work there. Like control the rides. Be the ride people. Control the rides together. So people can go on them… Or sell food… or toys or something. Maybe that could work. Maybe", says Jer.

The play focuses on getting to know the family. The four talented, well-cast actors viscerally mold fury, despair, hope and love for one another, in emotional performances. They are the faces of people, eating government welfare cheese, living in trailer parks, and wearing church donated clothing -- and they convincingly could be anyone.

Talbott wrote the play while noticing the extent of the poverty crisis in this country. He feels people have turned away from the problem, with a sense of smugness and snobbery. The crux of the play occurs when Ruby derisively insults a classmate at their school, who is also poor but promiscuous. Jake shouts at Ruby to stop talking as if she's better than everyone. With obscenities, he yells in frustration, "We're not better, okay? We're not better!"

Jake then continues to dig the grave as fast as he can.

"The play for me is about empathy and vulnerability… it's about people in impossible circumstances trying to dig out of it", said Talbott.

Yosemite by Daniel Talbott, directed by Pedro Pascal; Rattlestick Theater, 224 Waverly Place, New York, NY, for tickets visit www.rattlestick.org, playing through March 3.

Libby Woodbridge

Seth Numrich and Noah Galvin

Seth Numrich and Noah Galvin

Libby Woodbridge and Kathryn Erbe

Seth Numrich

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image