The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp Review
Go Back to Where You Are

Go back to where you are. Where you are living. Who you are and where you are and when you are. We do sometimes get second chances and life unfolds as we had given up. But it surprises us and unfolds and this time we are ready. Go back to where you are.— Bernard
David Greenspan
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
David Greenspan is a unique presence on New York's theatrical landscape. He's played many support roles on and Off-Broadway and with his unique mannerisms and way of speaking often adds memorable touches of humor (his Queen Elizabeth in Rarah Rule's Orlando and his butler in The Royal Family come to mind).

The plays he's penned tend to feature him as a soloist or main player and require close attention to understand just what's going on. That was the case for She Stoops to Comedy which launched the Playwrights Horizons Peter Sharp Theater and last Year's Myopia at the Atlantic Theater's second stage — and is again true for his return to the Peter Sharp with Go Back Where You Are.

This latest written by and starring Greenspan venture not only demands close attention to avoid confusion as to what's real, what's a play, and who needs rescuing and from what — but a willingness to swallow Greenspan's rather too fanciful conceit. Even Greenspan's fans, and I'm among them, are likely to find his performances this time around quite a bit more idiosyncratic than usual and, yes, somewhat self-indulgent.

Greenspan has obviously written Go Back Where You Are for himself. We meet his character, Passalus, on an Eastern Long Island beach after a very long hiatus in Hell, wishing only to be nothing in nowhere. However, it seems God has commissioned him to get the heck out of Hell for a rescue mission, involving one person. If he succeeds he'll get his wish for "Oblivion. Annihilation of the soul." If he strays from his assignment, he'll be doomed to live life all over again.

While this whimsical otherworldy figure is the plot pivot, this isn't strictly a star vehicle. There are seven other characters, all with their feet firmly planted in the present. Like Passalus they are theater people. All play their parts superbly and with restraint (I mean that in a good way). Leigh Silverman sees to it that the real, surreal and metatheatrical elements come together naturally. The work of the design team is spare but quite elegant.

Mr. Greenspan's visitor from the other world calls for the sort of excessively mannered acting in which he specializes. I was therefore willing to give him a pass on his going somewhat too over-the-top here. Greenspan-can-do-no-wrong loyalists will probably pooh pooh my even voicing reservations and laugh their heads off. I also found the conceit driving this play rather too clever for its own good. Without going into too much detail: The setting is at the Long Island beach house of Claire (Lisa Barnes), a successful actress. Some scenes take place near an older, less modern, house where Claire and her brother Bernard (Brian Hutchinson), a not too successful gay playwright and playwriting teacher spent their youthful summers. This is where Bernard meets Passalus whose assignment from God is not to help him but his niece and Claire's daughter Carolyn strike out on her own (Carolyn whose birthday it is is never seen because she's busy in the kitchen preparing the lunch, which tells you something about why she needs Passalus or someone to send her away from being a fancy maid to her mother).

The visitors for whom set designer Rachel Hauck has set out assorted deck chairs include Claire's friend Charlotte (Mariann Mayberry), also an actress but, like Passalus in his ancient Greece life, her career is a no-starter and she's currently desperate for work, a desperation which her friend and hostess does little to relieve. Also on hand is Claire's friend and director Tom (Stephen Bogardus), his too frequently unfathful partner partner Malcolm (Tim Hopper, also doubling as God), and Claire's son Wally (Michael Izquierdo) who adds to the high Gay character count.

As Hutchinson's drolly appealing Bernard explains at the beginning, what we witness at his sister's house is metatheatrical and that he's going to be there as one of the characters in what he admits is "kind of a weird play." He also reassures the audience he's addressing that if his brief introduction of Passalus has them confused about what's going on "that's good."

As for Passalus, it seems that God has enabled him to assume any persona he wants during his trip back to the living. Anyone familiar with Greenspan won't be surprised that he arrives at Claire's house as Mrs. Simmons, an elderly British woman, which is a step in the right direction for his mission to help Carolyn. The real conceit of this play within the play is that his meeting with Bernard has restored Passalus's ability to feel and even read everyone's thoughts. And so, even though it means he won't get his wish for oblivion, Passalus winds up being something of a good fairy touching up the dysfunctions of everyone present. I leave it to you to guess if that includes another and more meaningful meeting for him and Bernard.

Actually synopsizing all this for you dear reader, makes it all sound like a lot of fun. Indeed the contemporary theater references among Claire and her guests are amusing But somewhere along the way the more probing exploration of the meaning of life and death that some of Greenspan's initial rants hint and the various other melancholy asides are abandoned for what is essentially a gay romance story. Doesn't God have more critical problems to run interference for?

Go Back to Where You Are by David Greenspan
Director: Leigh Silverman
Cast: David Greenspan (Passalus), Lisa Banes (Claire), Stephen Bogardus (Tom), Tim Hopper (Malcolm/God), Brian Hutchison (Bernard), Michael Izquierdo (Wally) and Mariann Mayberry (Charlotte)
Scenic design: Rachel Hauck
Costume design: Theresa Squire
Lighting design: Matt Frey
Production Stage Manager: Kyle Gates
Running Time: 75 minutes
Playwrights Horizons' Peter Jay Sharp Theater 416 West 42nd Street
Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2PM & 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2PM & 7PM.
Single tickets, $55-- Live for Five $5 tickets for first preview through lottery. HOTtix, $25 rush tickets, subject to availability, day of performance only, starting one hour before showtime to patrons aged 30 and under. Student $15 rush tickets, subject to availability, day of performance only, starting one hour before curtain
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 4/10/11 press preview matinee
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Go Back to Where You Are
  • I disagree with the review of Go Back to Where You Are
  • The review made me eager to see Go Back to Where You Are
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company

Next to Normal
Our Review of the Show

Scottsboro Boys cast album
TheScottsboro Boyse

bloody bloody Andrew Jackson
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

In the Heights
In the Heights


©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from