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A CurtainUp Review
Ages of the Moon

How'd you wind up here anyway? Middle of night--some moon. Where the hell are we supposed to be? The East? The South? East of the Mississippi? . . .— Byron
Ages of the Moon
(L-R) Stephen Rae and Sean McGinley (Photo: Ari Mintz)
Sam Shepard was an indifferent high school student, though he did read poetry and was greatly influenced by reading Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.That influence is certainly evident in Ages of the Moon commissioned by Dublin's Abbey Theater for Stephen Rae and Sean McGinley, who've now brought this play to the Atlantic Theater.

I suppose you could classify this two-hander as a buddy play. Ames (Rae) and Byron (McGinley) who are " not exactly spring colts" are having a bourbon infused reunion. It was initiated by Ames (Rae), an emotional desperado who's summoned his old buddy to an isolated house where he's hanging out and needs Byron to help him cope with being tossed out by the wife disgusted with his philandering..

There's a good deal of Beckettian absurdism in the men's interaction and the fragmented dialogue from bits and pieces of their past and present can be deciphered. Not much happens, though there's a sense of waiting for something to happen.

Given the spare set, the de rigueur Shepard bang-up fight with food and furniture flying all over the place is considerably less messy than usual. The many shots of bourbon consumed by Ames and Byron are taken straight without so much as a dish of peanuts in sight and there's darn little furniture to upend. However, Shepard does manage to tease a good bit of business from an unreliable ceiling fan.

The landscape is a vague somewhere in the woods. No wonder that at one point Byron, soddened with drink and some rough treatment by Ames, can't figure out (as quoted above) where he is. Never mind that he must have had a destination stamped on the ticket for the bus that brought him there. It doesn't take a psychologist or an ace detective to figure out that this is as much about the men's place in life and the scheme of things than any specific physical landscape. This also applies to the title and the discussion about the cycles of the moon that they're watching.

Initially, Rae's Ames seems to be the main character — with McGinley's Byron the sounding post and straight man for his old buddy's somewhat clownish despairing reminiscences and complaints about having to cope with the unpleasant feeling of "being despised." But don't be fooled. You may be drawn to the box office by the name of the better known Rae, but McGinley is a superb actor and, by the time the lights dim, his story is the one you're most likely to remember.

While Shepard has written better plays, Ages of the Moon does give Rae and McGinley a great opportunity to display their versatility as actors. Both are fascinating and fun to watch. It's good to be seeing them in a theater small enough to catch every nuance of their outstanding physical performances. Director Jimmy Fay lets them talk and rant, sit stock still and break loose so that this small play has a chance to best reveal Ames' and Byron's shared and individual memories and the play's underlying text about aging and loss.

Ages of the Moon arrives Off-Broadway in the same season as the New Group is reviving Shepard's 1985 play Lie of the Mind and Curtainup has added a new chapter to its authors' album with a Sam Shepard backgrounder.

Ages of the Moon
By Sam Shepard
Directed by Jimmy Fay.
Starring Stephen Rea and Sean McGinley
Scenic design: Brien Vahey
Costume design: Joan Bergin
Lighting: Paul Keogan
Sound: Phillip Stewart
Stage Manager: Alison DeSantis
Running Time: 75 minutes without an intermission
Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater 336 West 20 Street
From 1/09/10; opening 1/27/10; closing 3/21/10.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 1/22/10 press rreview
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