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Simon Says

Anthony Goes and Brian Murray† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††photos by Maria Baranova


by Eugene Paul


Simon is who James, (Anthony J. Goes) becomes when heís channeling.† Channelers are those rare creatures who fascinate us by their capacity to go into trance states in order to contact individuals who have lived other lives in the past.† James had been doing this ever since he was a child and got bumped on the head.† He and his waste- not- want- not mother earned a living going around the country giving sťances until the authorities stepped in, incarcerated ma and delivered James into the eager care of professor Williston (Brian Murray) who has been chronicling the awesome powers of his charge ever since .They, too, have been living on the proceeds of sťances but somehow, now, itís all right.


Except that Professor Williston does not handle money very well, leading to conflict. James, who appears to be somewhat older than most students and quite able to handle his own affairs is furious because Professor Williston has not paid his tuition fees at Jamesís college and James has been dumped.† Why this situation should ever have occurred is hazy; rather does it appear that Professor Williston is in need of care. But playwright Mat Schaffer does not enlighten us about this or any other details of their living arrangements, intent as he is to get channeling; however,† donít expect Simon to clarify anything when once† heís been† exhorted into our presence.


Vanessa Britting , Brian Murray & Anthony J. Goes


Enter Annie (Vanessa Britting), attractive, troubled, not the prospective client Williston had anticipated but it phases him not a whit. He delivers his mantra: ďThere are no accidentsĒ. Everything is ordained. Annie is inflamed. Sheís there to get an explanation for the car accident which killed her husband as well as her unborn child. Which causes us also to conjecture: is there nothing new under the sun? Playwright Schaffer is not exactly laying new ground here.


Anthony J. Goes & Vanessa Britting


We all have been sadly numbed, inured by having heard Annieís timeworn lament too many times. He seems to wish us toward his channeling theme as quickly as possible, even to keeping outward bound James present by discovering that he and Annie had an aunt with the same name, hence James his changing his mind and staying. To channel.


What director Myriam Cyr makes of this is Ė hash.† Although most of the hash is right there in the play.† She simply has not been able to convince her actors into being convincing, especially once James becomes Simon.† Brian Murray, skates by all of it quite nicely, observing intently as the deeply concerned professor but Anthony Goes, as James turned into Simon has been given no help or the wrong help trying to convey Simon to us and itís vital that he does so because playwright Schafferís lecture on trance states has not found the drama he assumes is inherent in just mentioning channeling. He depends on the mysticism of Simonís summoning which lighting designer John Malinowski underscores very nicely.† Goes, in spite of splendidly athletic twitchings, and contortions seems as unconvinced as we are that he is really in that other world of Simonís brought before aghast Annie and spellbound Williston.


You find you are not caring enough about their relationships, you have not been swept into anything resembling an orbit of electrifying emotional involvement. Do not be surprised you continue to question the goings on in Professor Willistonís charmingly messy living room (thank you, designer Janie Howland). You realize you are not involved.† You are questioning the machinations of the play, the machinations of the performances, the comfort of your seat, the way James goes into and out of his trance states and you question why James behaves the way he does as Simon when as James he can be a reasonably good facsimile of a human being. If this is how mediums act in a trance state, give it up. Because it is not compelling, it is repelling.


The other worldly hook does not always work, not if itís not fresh. Not if itís not fully grounded in reality.† Itís the realness of the unreal that captivates, in life and on the stage. There are accidents.† Viz and to wit.


Simon Says. At the Lynne Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street.† Tickets: $30-$65. 95 Min. thru July 30.