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A CurtainUp Review
Late Fragment
by Elyse Sommer

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
--- "Late Fragment" a poem by Raymond Carver

Jenna Stern & Nick Sandow
Jenna Stern & Nick Sandow (Photo: George McLaughlin)
I suppose we haven't seen the end of plays jump started by the 9/11 disaster. The latest contribution to this genre just opened at Studio Dante, the elegant little 60-seat theater which his earnings on The Sopranos helped Michael Imperioli and his wife Victoria carve out of the ground floor of an otherwise plain looking brick building on 29th Street. (Those gilt and brocade faux Louis XVI chairs straddle a red carpeted aisle that makes you feel a bit like a guest at a wedding).

Late Fragment, a twilight zone-like abusurdist tragi-comedy by a young Julliard graduate, Francine Volpe, isn't likely to alter what most plays linked to 9/11 have made plain: Any fictional drama, is bound to pale in comparison to the real event. And no attempt at surrealism can be any more surreal than the etched in memory images of people jumping out of the real towering infernos. Thus, any attempt at humor, absurd or otherwise, is bound to misfire.

Even without the problematic link to 9/11, Volpe's play doesn't add up to more than occasionally interesting, but generally confusing dramatic fragments. Despite Victoria Imperioli's semi-abstract, noirish set with its grisaille cityscape background, this story of one survivor whose nightmare continues after he returns home doesn't work.

Covered in dust and unable to move his neck from having been trampled on during the horrendous exodus, Matthew (Nick Sandow) finds his wife Marta (Jenna Stern) more concerned with their troubled finances than thankful to have him back and eager to comfort him. As Matthew's pain and trauma intensify along with his wife's lack of sympathy and support, it becomes clear that he never did and never will experience the sense of being beloved (as described in the Raymond Carver poem, quoted at the top of this review and which gave Ms. Volpe her thematic inspiration and title).

To add to the surreal buildup of a never ending nightmare segueing into absurd comedy, Matthew's physical deteriation extends from his neck to his groin. He receives no help from Marta or his creepily opportunistic lawyer (Michael Mosley). In fact, their behavior adds to the sense that Matthew is doomed to plunge deeper and deeper into a twilight zone from which there is no return.

With play structured so that the scene shifts every time you think you may be getting a handle on what's going on and the overly busy between scene prop movement, the viewer is unable to ever getcaught up in this fragmented marriage and the world it seems intended to echo. This sense of non-involvement is not helped by the performances or the direction which does little to downplay the play's detours from logic (why, for example, would a TV newsman and cameraman repeatedly interview Matthew in his home when he is just one of thousands and with no particularly interesting story to tell?) As it is, this is pretty much a case of five muddled characters in search of a less confusing play than they've been given.

By Francine Volpe
Co-directed by Michael Imperioli and Zetna Fuentes
Cast: Ken Forman (Cameraman), Dean Harrison (Brian), Michael Mosley (Dorian), Nick Sandow (Matthew)Jenna Stern (Marta).
Set and Costume Design: Victoria Imperioli
Scenic Painter: Richard Cerullo
Lighting Design: Tony Giovannetti
Running time: 90 Minutes, includes one intermission
Studio Dante, 257 W. 29th St. (212) 279-4200.
From 9/28/05 to 10/22/05; opening 10/01/05

Wednesday to Saturday at 8:00 PM.
Tickets $35 to $40
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on September 30th performance
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