Ages of the Moon
Sam Shepard’s romance with the ghost of Samuel Beckett is in full bloom in Ages of the Moon, the playwright’s spare two-man show about old friends reunited by mutual desperation (the Atlantic Theater Company’s Off Broadway production runs through March 7). Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) plays Ames, a boozing ol’ coot exiled to his country cabin after some marital discord, and Seán McGinley (Braveheart) is Byron, the more-composed pal tasked with raising Ames’ spirits. While a finicky ceiling fan taunts them from above, the two sip bourbon on the porch and attempt to recapture old times with simple, rhythmic repartee reminiscent of Waiting for Godot. The men soon realize they don’t know each other as well as they had thought, talking right past each other with exchanges that grow increasingly absurd and contentious.
Shepard penned the play specifically for the two Irish actors, but it’s an unusual tragicomic role for Rea, who seems better suited to the more reserved cinematic characters for which he is best known. He plays Ames so loosely that when he first erupts in rage, the audience seems unsure whether to gasp or snicker. This confused reaction reflects a tonal dissonance that permeates the 80-minute production, keeping the audience at arm’s length. Nevertheless, McGinley effortlessly expresses the fear and indignation provoked by Ames’ churlishness and elegantly makes the most of the artful silences that interrupt Shepard’s rat-tat-tat dialogue. Still, I’d be more intrigued by Ages of the Moon if the actors swapped roles. Grade: B-
(Tickets: Ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200)