“The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle” at 59E59 Theaters ( Closed Sunday September 29, 2013)

September 17, 2013 | Off-Broadway | Tags: ,
Written by Ross Dungan
Directed by Dan Herd
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“It is time to enjoy happiness with those we love and to realize that we are at a time in our lives when enjoying today means more than worrying about tomorrow. It is time to celebrate the fact that we have finally learned what life is about and how to make the most of it.”  (An Excerpt from When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters by Harold Kushner)

It is in Eric Argyle’s (Dave McEntegart) worrying about tomorrow and in his search for a life that matters that he begins to slowly (but indubitably) die. All of this occurs long before he decides to “save time crossing the road by not looking” at 1:03 a.m. And all of this occurs before he finds himself before some “celestial” interrogator (Moderator Katie Lyons) who tells Eric’s dead self, “Tonight, you’re going to be looking at a series of pre-selected events and answering questions about them.”

The audience is collectively called to “witness the night’s proceedings” and participate in some decision-making process that will be made following the hearing. Eric Argyle assumes the decision will determine his un-earthly future. He discovers, however, that the decision to be made after the proceedings is about something different and far more important. This review will not disclose what that decision is except to hint that is has something to do with Gillian Telford (Siobhan Cullen), Imelda (Erica Murray), Mr. Downey (Manus Halligan), Mr. Aldershot (Davey Kelleher), Jessica Bolger (Karen Sheridan), and a manuscript of over five-thousand pages.

Ross Dungan’s electrifying “The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle” at 59E59 Theater B recounts the events of aforementioned proceedings in a kaleidoscopic montage of events from Eric’s life. These events collide, collude, conspire, overlap, intertwine, tease, and tempt and leave the audience wondering until the last moment (just before Eric “takes a deep breath and closes his eyes”) why Eric Argyle had to witness specific bits of his life. The action is fast-paced and the ensemble cast handily and skillfully plays all the roles needed to re-enact those bits. Dan Herd’s surreal direction is perfect and could even be ramped up to a hallucinatory level – things could definitely be a bit more edgy. Colm McNally’s original design more than complements Mr. Dungan’s script and Mr. Herd’s direction.

Author Harold Kushner (see above) is spot on when he identifies as universal, humankind’s hope to have made a difference sometime between birth and death and humankind’s equally universal worry that all it wanted was not enough. Eric Argyle’s similar “questions that he’s asked his entire life about being remembered, the worries he’s carried with him every day about making a difference” are resolved in the course of Ross Dungan’s remarkable ninety-minute play, part of this year’s 1st Irish Festival. The mystery for the audience is how this resolution was accomplished and the gift for the audience is the catharsis Eric’s “sort of death” ultimately provides.

The additional gift for the audience and for New York City is the remarkable talent evident in each and every year of the remarkable 1st Irish Festival. The eight-member cast of “The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle” glistens with all the craft of the theatre, delivers with exactitude performances of redemption and release, and graces the stage with inexorable wonder. See the schedule below and book a reservation today.