Hadary, C.J. Wilson, Heather Burns, Marylouise Burke and Omar Metwally star in
Brian Watkins’ Epiphany.
are epiphanies and the Epiphany.
is a sudden realization of the essential meaning of an idea or event. The other
is an often-forgotten holiday celebrated on Jan. 6 that commemorates the coming
of the Magi. Epiphany, now at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse, aims
backdrop is a dinner party — but the excuse is to gather nine people together
in a kind of fellowship. It’s a chance to recreate the tradition of community,
while discovering the essence of existence.
a tall order, but it’s nurtured by Morkan (Marylouise Burke), an impish woman with
a distinct vocal delivery. She is sweet, but never deliberately funny, yet her
comic timing is uncanny. And her quest — to find solace in others — is moving,
even though the dramatic tension is sparse.
big question is: Why are these people coming together? They are not all known to
each other, but all know Gabriel, Morkan’s nephew, who, like Godot, never
they gather for dinner. But what Morkan intends is to serve up discourse. The
themes are meaty: technological obsession, loneliness, social isolation and
disconnection. Playwright Brian Watkins tackles big topics in a seemingly
comfortable setting. But what becomes painfully — and occasionally comically
clear — is that comfort is relative. Can the guests — as their host hopes —
experience the impossible?
will they, like the psychiatrist (Omar Metwally), become overly pedantic,
relying on intellectual tropes to avoid emotional confrontation. Or is Watkins
suggesting we overthink to avoid the more primal, revelatory moment when
setting is a bit overwhelming — an old Gothic-style mansion with an impossibly
steep staircase and snow gently falling outside its massive windows. Lights
keep flickering unexpectedly. There is even goose for dinner, which prompts one
guest to declare: "We're in a time machine.”
stage is slightly ghostly, much like an Agatha Christie locked-room mystery:
Guests are thrown back on their own resources in hopes of surviving the evening.
In this case, it means watching couples snipe and unfulfilled longings and personal
fault lines revealed. That may be because Watkins is channeling, in part, James
Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” set at a Christmas party in the early part of
the 20th century. Gabriel and his wife visit the home of his aunts,
Kate and Julia Morkan, in Dublin. (In Epiphany, Julia is a late
mention.) Joyce bemoans a life without passion. Morkan laments a life without
connection, while noting all the reasons for disconnection.
Burke is the centerpiece of Epiphany. (Jeremy Daniel)
proves to be a comic moment, as Morkan has sent attachments to navigate the
evening. The trouble is — no one could, or did, them. Either excuse underscores
her larger point: We are losing our personal attachments. Literally.
Technological snafus are frustrating — they also keep us locked in our own
worlds. That’s why she insists her guests surrender their iPhones before
dinner. She can’t compete with them.
cast also includes Francois Battiste, Heather Burns, Jonathan Hadary, Colby
Minifie, David Ryan Smith, C.J. Wilson and Carmen Zilles, Gabriel’s partner,
who explains: “He's lost his hope.”
some sense, Epiphany loses its way, too.
drama, such as it is, is uneven. Everyone wants to see Gabriel, but he’s not
coming. Morkan wants to celebrate a holiday, but she’s not sure of its genesis
or meaning. There’s some debate about the Magi, but it’s just conversation
comedy is based largely on Burke’s responses, or the occasional zing when one
member of a couple attempts to put down his/her mate.
the ensemble is uniformly good, under the direction of Tyne Rafaeli, who keeps
the action moving, though there is little that actually happens. Epiphany
is a play about interior life and its external repercussions. The big reveal
comes at the end — and its impact is touching.
Lincoln Center/Mitzy E. Newhouse – 150
West 65 St
time: 1 hour, 50 minutes, no intermission