"Ages of the Moon" at Atlantic Theater Company, February 17, 2010
Sam Shepard's newest play comes to New York after its London premiere, a rambling, almost stream of conscious, 80 minute, two-hander. The premise is that of Byron (Sean McGinley) arriving to comfort Ames (Stephen Rea), whose wife has just walked out on him after discovering a recent act of infidelity. Slowly we learn that Byron and Ames haven't been all that close after all as the drinking progresses and the confessions and long-forgotten memories waft in and out. This meandering exposition includes a tale spilling a pot of coffee on Roger Miller, the possible death of Byron's wife, a badly staged fight resulting in a possible heart attack.
The location of the action appears to be rural America, though this is never explicitly stated. The rural accents attempted by Messrs. Rea and McGinley travel all across the world, so perhaps that's why it's indefinite. The age of the two characters is also a bit confusing, since neither actor appears to be pushing 70, as the exposition would propose. (The Roger Miller incident took place in the early 1960s on Ames' honeymoon.) On top of that, Mr. Rea's dark hair belies his character's age as well.
There are some standard, required elements of a Shepard play - - guns, whiskey and fisticuffs. The gun comes along to address the issue with the "finicky" ceiling fan on the porch which turns of its own volition.
As Ames, Mr. Rea is whiny, needy, jealous and agressive. Mr. McGinley's Byron comes off like a bit of Forrest Gump, restating the obvious more often than not. Pace lags from time to time as the two men sit and stare off into the distance, sipping their bourbon. I'm certain these are two very talented actors, but am hard pressed to find them well cast in these roles.
Director Jimmy Fay doesn't seem to have landed on the message in this play of grumpy old men. I'm not certain Mr. Shepard has either. Brien Vahey's front porch set serves well, complemented by Paul Keogan's lights.