page contents Adrienne Kennedy’s new play, ‘Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side,’ is utterly unique – The News Headline

Adrienne Kennedy’s new play, ‘Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side,’ is utterly unique

The play, a knotty story of the lifelong literary competition between scrapping, scribbling sisters, is quintessential Kennedy: fragmentary but coherent, blisteringly visceral but enigmatically distinctive. When the lighting cross up on a Kennedy advent, you strap in for a gambol alongside a unique corniche. Her canon is every now and then interlocking; at any second, you’re vulnerable to stumble upon puts or incidents from her different performs (or even from the works of alternative writers). Those touchstones are summoned fleetingly within the streams of poetic awareness which are Kennedy’s beautiful hallmark.

One of the most advantages of the net formatting of “Etta and Ella at the Higher West Facet” — directed with crisp authority via Timothy Douglas — is that you’ll be able to watch it greater than as soon as. “Etta and Ella” surrenders its mysteries most effective grudgingly: You’ll listen it in a distinct, possibly much more rewarding approach a 2nd time via. I discovered an extra viewing useful in unraveling relationships referenced within the monologue accorded to Ella, who discursively parcels out main points of her and her sister’s psychic disintegration.

Seated at a desk on a naked degree, Clay results an amused professorial air as she recounts the occasions resulting in a violent come upon on Long island’s Higher West Facet, in a gully close to the Hudson River. Don’t be expecting a police-procedural strategy to this account; Kennedy is way more taken with vagaries of disintegration than in a transparent delineation of a last act of insanity. Is the act itself a fantasy? Do Etta and Ella exist as separate beings? Is “Etta and Ella” in reality a ghost tale?

We be informed snippets about Etta and Ella, as soon as stuffed with authorial promise and now, in early center age, consigned to has-been standing. A pal sees Etta in a bookstall, in her shabby day by day gown — a “wrinkled outdated night time robe” and shoes. A professor from Town School, a member of a small arts society referred to as the Vanishing Literary Membership, offers Etta a room in his brownstone on West 89th Boulevard. Etta and Ella get right into a jealous row over possession of sure tales from their previous, at a public match. Those fragments don’t coalesce in any typical biographical sense; we’re witness to the spilling out of instances, the way in which one may ruin open a piggy financial institution, and watch the cash scatter throughout a desk.

A sad size is suffused throughout “Etta and Ella” — of lack of standing, of bearings, of sanity. The play’s construction displays this perception of unraveling: That is how one in point of fact does traverse the blurry, variegated chambers of reminiscence. Private recollection can’t be plotted on a map. Looking to assign it a logical course is also the actual act of insanity.

Clay is a superbly protean performer, as you already know in the event you’ve observed her as a hard-bitten autoworker in Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Group” at Studio Theatre or because the perceptive housekeeper in “The Little Foxes” on Broadway. Right here, she’s a sublime bestower of Kennedy’s riches.

Etta and Ella at the Higher West Facet, via Adrienne Kennedy. Directed via Timothy Douglas. $15 (or $60 for your entire four-play pageant.) Via Feb. 28. roundhousetheatre.org and mccarter.org.

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