Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Establishment Threads in a Radical Fringe:

“England,” a gripping meditation by Tim Crouch, also centers on a painfully insecure and entitled Westerner. In this sneakily allegorical work, which takes place on two floors of an art gallery, a nervous English character is played simultaneously by the strangely calm and hypnotic pair of actors, Mr. Crouch and Hannah Ringham, who alternate speaking lines. The speaker, called a guide in the script, can’t stop boasting about his/her strong American boyfriend, a confident type who speaks four languages and knows exactly what to say.

“He saved my life,” the guide says, oddly, before we learn that he had become deathly sick. In the second act, which takes place in an unidentified foreign country, he/she confronts the wife of the dying man, Hassam, who donated his heart so the guide could live.

Mr. Crouch’s “Oak Tree,” which opened in New York in 2006, did not prepare me for the finely sculpted language of this drama that at its best resembles the muscular sentences of Caryl Churchill. In a few economical brush strokes, “England,” which makes its points obliquely, through metaphor instead of sloganeering, hints at a dark world where everything can be boiled down to a financial transaction (the global art market is sent up mercilessly) and moral choice is regularly outsourced.

7:09 PM