BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Just For Nothing
by Laura Hitchcock
Those who admired Yasmina Rezaís prize-winning Art will see one of her forerunners in style and dissection in this rare English translation of a play by French literary lioness Nathalie Sarraute, given its American premiere at the Tamarind Theatre. This production uses the boxing ring as a metaphor for the relationship between two life-long friends who finally reach the point where it all hangs out. M1 (Stefan Cattan) is a successful publisher. M2 (Charles Fathy) is a writer.
M1 challenges M2ís recent coolness. M2 says it stemmed from a remark made by M1: "Thatís good, --- isnít it?" Itís not what M1 said, itís the way he said it. That fatal pause between the phrases, one of Sarrauteís famed behavioral tics, opens M2ís eyes to M1ís lifelong emotions and the way they make M2 feel.
In the ensuing 90 minutes, the two thrash out such treasured grudges as the way M2 made everybody stop halfway up a mountain climb so he could admire the view and the way M1 coos over his wife and infant son in front of M2. "To make me jealous! I am never jealous!" hisses M2 . Right! And so it goes.
In the end M1 and M2 confront each other appraisingly. Although clearing the air can lead to a more realistic relationship, it also unravels the lifelong bond of acceptance that held the pair together. Will they be as resilient as when they were younger? What, if anything, will the new dynamic be?
Thereís a famous adage, "Everybody knows everything all the time." Sarrauteís play is about admitting it. She gives the small irritations and antagonisms of a lifetime the airing that most long intimate relationships require at one time or another. Therefore, it is all the more important that director and performers create a dynamic that makes the audience lean forward and identify, as well we can, with how a tone of voice can chill us out.
Fathy also directs and the production could have used a pair of outside eyes. Although both actors gave intelligent dynamic performances, it was hard to get a sense that they had grasped Sarrauteís intent to pierce one anotherís armor. There was little variation in emotional moments. However, Just for Nothing is a welcome glimpse of French sensibility and, in addition to the English-language performances, will be performed in French on Sunday, May 12th, and every Sunday thereafter until the June 2nd closing.