|Lisa Emery, Samantha Soule and Lee Aaron Rosen in Gabriel
Photo: Ari Mintz
Towards the top of the play Lilian enters out of breath. She has found a man with no clothes washed up on the beach. She is insisting on bringing him into the house (a crime if he isn't German). It turns out he has no idea who he is, though he does interestingly enough speak German as well as English. Estelle decides to name him Gabriel.
The matriarch of the family, Jeanne is forced to "entertain" one of the Nazi majors, Von Pfunz a replacement for the Nazi major before him who Jeanne was also entertaining. Von Pfunz is played by the talented Zach Grenier who so wonderfully played Mozart in last season's 33 Variations. One of the most engaging scenes in the entire play
Zach Grenier and Lisa Emery in Gabriel
Photo: Ari Mintz
Zach Grenier is spectacular as the manipulative, contradictory major. I wish I could say the same thing of Ms. Woodbridge as the daughter. Her performance is robotic. Another problem with this role has its roots in the fact that the daughter is supposed to be ten years old. Unfortunately Woodbridge looks too old for the role, particularly given the character's childish antics.
Patricia Connolly gives an outstanding performance as Margaret Lake, the family's housekeeper and distiller who makes the watered-down illegal liquor they sell on the black market. Lee Aaron Rosen gives an admirable performance as Gabriel, a roll in which he is out cold for the first third of the play.
Gabriel was finely directed by David Esbjornson. In a couple of scenes he effectively uses a contrapuntal device to stage two scenes at one time. He does this with the aid of Scott Zielinski's attractive lighting. Riccardo Hernandez' raked set appropriately throws the audience off balance. At the same time Mr. Zielinski's lighting helps it to serve as multiple floors.
The play has it's efficiencies and dramatic turns. It also has some oddities to it with the daughter and her belief in a "square of power." Again here, Ms. Buffini's intentions are not well served by the casting of an actress too old for the role. Also, the love scenes between the soldier and Lilian felt like too much too soon, even if he did bear a striking resemblance to her missing husband it felt unnecessary.
Despite the minor flaws, Gabriel is an absorbing piece of theatre finely rendered. Gabriel plays at the Atlantic Theatre Company's Linda Gross Theater, 330 West 20th Street, Chelsea. It runs through June 20th.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.