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A CurtainUp Review
I Am The Wind
Jordan G. Teicher
"I can barely speak. It's a struggle to get a single word out, to extract a single word and then when the word is out, when the word has been spoken, it feels so heavy that it drags me down too. It makes me sink and sink." "— The One
font size="1">R-L: Louis Butelli and Christopher Tierney (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima)
It's hard to feel neutral about Jon Fosse. The Norweigan, who holds the distinction of being the most produced living European playwright, is loved by theatergoers the world over, except, emphatically, the British. His plays shirk realism, and in their starkness and lyricism, employ some of the qualities of poetry. I Am The Wind, his latest, is no exception. It's unapologetically serious and, clocking in at about an hour, decidedly brief. It's the sort of work that seems to demand you make up your mind about it and to do so quickly.

I Am The Wind drops us in a boat with a strapping, seafaring type called The One (Christopher Tierney), and his older, bespectacled friend, The Other (Louis Butelli). As many will do on a nice day, they've gone out on a boat to do nothing less than grapple with the meaning of life and existence. And have lunch.

And the grappling comes almost straight away. For The One, the most basic elements of human existence, like saying things, going one place, staying in another place — being alive, essentially — are as palpably challenging and urgent as navigating a boat in rocky surf. Tierney does a good job of physically articulating his character's internal struggle, and he and Butelli both do a nice job of pantomiming that rocky surf (which inevitably does come) as well as most every other aspect of scene.

The Other is aptly named. Occasionally playful, but mostly fretful as a bird, The Other seems to exist only to try to suss out The One's anguish. Brow furrowed, hands and feet delicately searching the space around him, he flits around asking his questions, getting nowhere. The One is all concerns and contradictions, desperate to say something super deep about humanity, but unable to find the words. In a typical exchange, The One, visibly frustrated, stumbles, "I only know that I want to say something, tell you something, because to liveā€¦that is, I mean, you have to." And then decides "it's nothing." So it goes.

So what distinguishes this character from so many freshman stoners? Depends on how you feel about Fosse. If you're on board, you'll probably feel that The One's concerns are elemental and poetic and deeply human. If you're not, you'll find The One pretty annoying and obvious, and The Other only slightly less so. You'll find that whole jazz about the inability to communicate a bit tired and the play, generally, terribly repetitive.

Sometimes, I Am The Wind feels nice for its sheer simplicity and tidiness. The set, designed by Steven C. Kemp, is a grey landscape of cloth, an elegant evocation of the vastness of open water, and a visual reference to the comfort of death. There are no props really, save a surprisingly versatile coil of black rope. Palmer Hefferan's sound design provides a subtle, almost cinematic backdrop.

The One's struggle, as the play proceeds, concerns nothing less than the decision to keep living or to die, to endure the heaviness of existence, or to let go of it, embracing the emptiness of the wind.

And in a way, that struggle mirrors the duality of experiences in the audience of I Am The Wind — those sunk by the play's gravity, the others charmed by its deceptive lightness. It's worth finding out where you stand.

Editor's Note: When our London critic reviewed this, she summed it up with "For those who like their theatre introspective and questioning the meaning of existence, I am the Wind is a must see but maybe not for those already feeling suicidal."
I Am The Wind
Written by Jon Fosse
Directed by Paul Takacs
Cast: Christopher Tierney (The One), Louis Butelli (The Other)
Set Design: Steven C. Kemp
Lighting Design: Nick Solyom
Sound Design: Palmer Hefferan
Costume Design: Amanda Shafran
Production Manager: Michele Connoly
Running Time: 60 minutes
59E59, 59 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022 (212) 753-5959
Beginning 1/9/2013, Ends 1/26/2014
Performance times: Tue, Wed, Thu 7:30, Fri & Sat 8:30, Sun 3:30
Ticket cost: $12.60-$18
Reviewed by Jordan G. Teicher at 1/17/2014 performance.
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