J. A. Di Bello’s Review of Sender

October 24, 2019


New Paltz

     New Paltz, NY is a quaint mostly attractive river town, comfortably resting on the East shore of a north-flowing Wallkill River. The scenic location further serves as an attractive campus for the State University of NY. In that capacity it has traditionally been considered as a gathering place for a creative-thinking, avant-garde community.

In that atmosphere, DENIZEN Theatre, a non-profit professional theatre, began its existence in 2018, offering an intimate, flexible 50 ± seating capacity. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, it has been enthusiastically received by the progressive community of this river town.  Founder and Producing Artistic Director Harry Lipstein recently stated, "Live theatre is a mirror that allows us to take a hard look at ourselves while giving us insight into our future.” Additionally, promotional material states the theatre will focus on “emerging playwrights, and powerful themes.” Statements that warrant attention!

Sender is a recently published, rather unconventional play by Ike Holter.  It is a note-worthy part of a seven-play series, known as Holter’s Rightlynd Saga. Absent a thorough background on Ike, the origin of the play’s central theme may have been found in a pop-psych book of the eighties: “The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up,” by Dr. Dan Kiley. It deals, prophetically in this case, with the tribulations and ordeals of men attempting to assume the responsibilities of adulthood: At the DENIZEN Theatre, the “boys” engage in a continual quest for J. M. Barrie’s imagined Neverland.

To launch this production of Sender, designer Crystal Vazquez has added to this black box theatre a second level with some creative and clever lighting designs. The second level is contrary to sightlines, but can be accommodated by the level of seating chosen,

Fortunately, for the sake of Martine Kei Green-Rogers, Director and the DENIZEN Theatre, this “Witty” play is supported by an exceptional group of actors. Standing far and above is Samantha Jane Williams, as a turbulent Cassandra. She fiercely holds the stage as a demanding bread winner, who in this role, could easily pass as a seasoned Paris Island, DI. Accompanying Cassandra is a credible and well-versed Maurice Chinnery in the role of Jordan, a second fiddle and emasculated husband. Serving as Tess, in the pivotal role of most neglected, is Veronica Cooper. Supporting her abused status is alcohol, and through she’s been to rehab, counting to twelve was a tad beyond her reach.

Our central character in this sequence of events, not to be confused with plot, is Ben Williamson as Lynx. Ben’s abilities on stage are immediate and apparent. He’s is vibrant and fully in command of the space he holds. The character he portrays, one who disappeared for a year and then reappears, not only has identity issues but is a poor communicator. When action or dialogue on stage lacks dramatic purpose, i.e., adding to plot or the characterization, it becomes hollow. How many times does a character have to scream at another, “Fuck you!” before the recipient gets the message. One hundred, two hundred? Maybe more, continuing ad nauseum. In theatre as in life, it is superfluous and distracting. Here, the advertised “adult language” becomes meaningless and the dialogue tiresome. It settles into a middle school morass of adolescent tirades.

The same assessment can be used for examining the theatre’s promotional material, advising of “brief nudity.” To be advised – fine. The reason or the dramatic purpose of the “brief nudity” - unknown. How does it advance what’s known of the plot or a character? Is Lynx suspected of being a crossdresser? ¿Quién sabe?

Lynx and those who follow are parasitical urchins, despite an unsubstantiated change of course in the play’s slam-bam-thank-you-mam resolution. A message of a slovenly, sponge-like existence is clearly articulated by Casandra, as her prophesy and the ill-defined purpose of Sender drift unheeded through the playhouse. And perhaps that’s the purpose of this production. Which is beyond a shame, because a number of people put a lot of hard work and talent into the presentation of a play called Sender.

Sender will continue its run at the DENIZEN Theatre in New Paltz through October 27. Tickets and information are available at 845-303-4136 or https://www.denizentheatre.com/

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