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A CurtainUp Review

Beyond Recognition
By Eunice Marquet

Good people can do bad things.
--- Kevin
Grant James Vargas & Michael Goduti
(L to R) Grant James Vargas & Michael Goduti
(Photo: Kim T. Sharp)
Several years ago, a friend of mine was found unconscious in a park here in Manhattan. He had been beaten, robbed and left for dead. He was taken to a near by hospital where, because he had no identification, he was admitted as John Doe. He remained at the hospital for nearly two weeks until his employer, worried because he'd missed so many shifts, finally identified him. As I watched John Petrick's new play, Beyond Recognition, currently running at the Abingdon Theatre, I couldn't help but note the uncanny similarities.

Petrick's main character, Kevin, is a good-hearted social worker who has recently been released from the hospital following what he believes was a terrible traffic accident. In fact, Kevin was the victim of a Central Park beating that left him physically and psychologically traumatized. Unbeknownst to him, he became a media darling during his hospital stay. However, when he starts to regain his memory about the event, he realizes that he is not as innocent as the press has made him out to be.

Having witnessed first hand a similar situation, I was struck by how accurately Petrick had captured Kevin's efforts to regain his equilibrium in the world. Beyond Recognition is a poignant, well-written play that has four fully developed characters struggling to come to terms with this life-altering incident.

Grant James Varjas, who plays Kevin, is a likable actor. He gets warmed up as the show goes on and really hits his stride in the second act. Michael Goduti is very effective as Josh, Kevin's young client who has been ordered by the court to seek anger management. The most engaging scenes in the play are between these two characters.

David Valcin convincingly portrays Mark, Kevin's opportunistic buddy who happens to be a journalist on the hunt for a feel-good story. Kevin's ex-lover and new caretaker, Andrew, is played by Christopher Burns who seems ill at ease in his role. He tends to whine his lines, which becomes progressively more difficult to listen to. However, under the direction of Kate Bushmann, the ensemble is committed to the story and carries the audience along with them.

Kudos to the Set Designer Michael Schweikardt and the Lighting Designer David Castaneda. The black, white and gray set provides a perfect clinical background for the story. Void of color, it allows the characters to really stand out, and with a few well-chosen lighting effect, there is no question where the scene is taking place. Special mention should be given to the sketch, drawn by Scott Aronow, which is projected on the back wall. It begins as a faceless drawing where details are revealed as the play continues. It is a fitting metaphor for this piece.

Beyond Recognition
Written by John Petrick
Directed by Kate Bushmann
Cast: Christopher Burns (Andrew), Michael Goduti (Josh), David Valcin (Mark), Grant James Vargas (Kevin)
Scenic Design: Michael Schweikardt
Lighting Design: David Castaneda
Costume Design: Ingrid Maurer
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet
Running time: 2 hours, 1 ten-minute intermission
The Abingdon Theatre, 312 West 36th Street 212/ 868-4444
10/17/03 - 11/09/03 opening 10/23/03
Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30PM, Saturday at 2PM and Sunday at 3PM--$19; $40 during the last 2 weeks of the run.
Reviewed by Eunice Marquet based on October 22nd performance

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