“Years to the Day” at 59E59 Theaters (Closed July 12, 2014)

July 9, 2014 | Off-Broadway | Tags:
Written by Allen Barton
Directed by Joel Polis
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Ostensibly eschewing the technology of communication, Dan (Michael Yavnieli) and Jeff (Jeff LeBeau) engage in what proves to be a marathon for gamers par excellence as they reunite at an undisclosed location in “present time adjacent” at a small table. Friends for twenty-five years, these two remaining members of a post-high school foursome of friends engage in exactly the type of exchange Jeff describes when expounding on texting:

JEFF: “Yeah. There’s a mystery to it that is attractive. The gamesmanship. One-upping a funny line, my move, your move. There’s a delicious bit of tension there.”

In Allen Barton’s “Years to the Day” Mr. Yavnieli and Mr. LeBeau bring that delicious tension to a perfect crescendo as they fiercely rehearse twenty-five years of bristling bromance, one-upping one another in a fast-paced virtual chess match of wits and wile. Dan and Jeff, conservative and liberal respectively, tackle infidelity, divorce, politics, cell phone technology, three-term presidents, children, love and loss, and sexual identity in a series of verbal matches that sometimes draw them closer to one another and all-too-often threaten to end their friendship.

Jeff’s take on the new movie both he and Dan saw (Dan hated it) works well as a critique of Mr. Barton’s play:

JEFF: “Yeah. I thought it was provocative. I thought it was original. I was drawn in, I cared what happened.”

Under Joel Polis’s adept and spirited direction, Mr. Yavnieli and Mr. LeBeau draw the audience in and make its members care about the lives of these two forty-something men as they attempt to discern what is real and authentic in life and what ultimately matters: “Ambiance of the environment. Music. Two kids playing somewhere. Traffic. The sounds of twenty-five years of a friendship.”

“Years to the Day” is a transformative testament to what is important. If there is a downside to this piece, it would be its length. Mr. Barton might take on too much for an audience to process if it were not handled by two skilled actors whose craft makes this virtual texting match a breeze through memories and dreams.

See “Years to the Day” before it moves east to Edinburgh. Citizens of The Burgh will love this one. So will you.