This trilogy of plays all are warm and funny with a slight philosophical edge to it – but due to the shortness of each there is not enough time to allow each of them to develop fully.
Shining a light on birth, marriage and death as seen through the perspective of Jewish characters, it is fair to say that each of these plays written by Amy Rosenthal, Alexis Zegerman and Ryan Craig have strong promise on their own terms and deserve to be developed further. However, by cramming them all into one evening, it doesn’t give enough space for the characters or story to develop properly.
Beginning with Amy Rosenthal’s Birth, this feels as though it is the least developed out of the three – despite having a very interesting premise. The story is set around retired obstetrician Michael (Planer), celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Lynda (Caroline Gruber), when unexpectedly a woman turns up on their doorstep to implicate him in her birth trauma, which then progresses to a fascinating conversation about the way in which humans respond and deal with suffering. It is thoughtful, but it feels as though the conversation goes around in circles with no real conclusion and definitely requires some fleshing out.
Things get stronger with Alexis Zegerman’s Marriage, which is certainly one of the most lively offerings of the evening. The story follows Eva and Adrian as they go on a disastrous first date, with input from a fellow customer Godfrey (who is not as he appears). Filled with awkwardness, which everyone who has been on a first date can identify with, there is good humour and the characters feel well developed in this piece as you get to know them and their feelings about relationships, marriage and children. As a comedy it really works and it is easy to enjoy the chemistry between Sam Thorpe-Spinks as Adrian and Abigail Weinstock as Eva and I would love to have known how that relationship developed and worked out.
The final piece to be showcased is Ryan Craig’s Death, which is focused on death as one family plans two funerals – one for a family member and another for a beloved hamster. While there is gentle humour to be found, this is certainly the most emotionally raw pieces as part of the evening. It was extremely interesting to see just how Leah, Adam and their father deal with the idea of death – however again due to time constraint it isn’t given enough time to develop fully. I was however, thoroughly invested in the emotional aspect of this story, with one incident highlighting just how unpredictable life can be.
There is certainly interesting ideas to be explored, with Kayla Feldman’s production effortlessly moving between each topic. However, it equally feels as the production is a little bit too confined, given the 65 minute running time and highlighting the number of issues that each play wants to explore. It does succeed in part in bringing Jewish stories to a bigger audience – it just needs a bigger platform and more development in which to do so.
Overall, it is a good starting point and I would be interested to see exactly what happens with each play in the future.
By Emma Clarendon
The Arc continues to play at the Soho Theatre until the 26th August.