“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” at 59E59 Theaters (Closed Sunday May 25, 2014)

May 7, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
By David Rudkin
Directed by Jack McNamara
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“And indeed there will be time/To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”/Time to turn back and descend the stair,/With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—“ From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

The connections playwright David Rudkin draws between T. S. Eliot’s fictional character J. Alfred Prufrock and Mr. Rudkin’s interest Alfred J. Hitchcock are compelling and make for a riveting and important theatre piece. Adapted from his earlier (1993) “film for radio,” David Rudkin’s “The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” plays at 59E59 Theater A through May 25, 2014 as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series.

David Rudkin intends his stage version of the radio play to explore “the obsessions of a haunted man” and “The Lovesong” does that with success and a high level of interest. Martin Miller eerily channels the essence of Alfred Hitchcock not just in posture and pattern of speech but also in spirit and soul. Amidst the same empty streets and “yellows,” Mr. Miller shares a Hitchcock who traverses the same stairs ascended and descended by J. Alfred Prufrock as both men sought meaning in their loneliness and hope in their solitude. Mr. Miller is splendid as the meticulous director thinking and rethinking how to bring the images in his mind to images on the screen.

Anthony Wise portrays three characters and handily gives each his own district personality and character traits: first, the menacing Jesuit priest that punishes Alfred cruelly as a child; second, the priest who hears his “confession later in life; and third, the stranger in the dining car on a train who counterpoints Hitchcock’s own dip into subterranean psychic waters. Tom McHugh plays the screenwriter, Hitchcock’s alter ego who puts into words the director’s visionary images and he charmingly plays the overly attentive waiter on the train. Hitchcock claims he was more comfortable with images than reality and Mr. McHugh’s screenwriter makes that claim clear.

Roberta Kerr shines as Hitchcock’s mother Emma and his wife Alma. Ms. Kerr embodies the meanness and possessiveness of Emma and the stalwart supportiveness of Alma who truly nurtured “Hitch” through his disconnect with reality and his deep loneliness. Roberta Kerr hauntingly exudes an Alma who, even after Hitchcock’s death, struggles with defining precisely how she connected to the complicated man her husband was.

Juliet Shillingford’s design and Asuza Ono’s lighting complement the script and the action with simplicity and chilling starkness. Director Jack McNamara keeps the pace at appropriate speed throughout. The piece is a bit long and could easily run without an intermission which would only intensify the playwright’s intent.

It would have been good to have the connection between Hitchcock’s tormented creativity more clearly delineated and more concretely linked to the difficult relationships between the famed director and his wife Alma and his mother Emma; however, the theatre piece as it stands is a compelling look into “Hitch’s” creative process and his brooding desire to find some connection “at the top of the stairs.”