For Email Marketing you can trust

James Dickey’s Deliverance

L-R: Jarrod Zayas, Sean Tant, and Gregory Konow in James Dickey’s Deliverance at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jason Woodruff

                                     by Joel Benjamin

The Godlight Theatre Company’s James Dickey’s Deliverance at 59E59 is a stark, barebones adaptation of the voluptuously scenic1970 novel (familiar mostly from the 1972 John Boorman film).  In its simplicity it is more a meditation on the themes of the novel than a graphic representation of the events of the book.  Occupying the tiny upstairs space of the theatre complex, the seven skilled performers act out the life-changing trip down a Georgia river, a journey that tests the moral fiber and courage of four out-of-shape southern businessmen, ending in the humiliation of one and the death of another.  Taken in by a naïve promise of adventure, they set out for fun and find themselves in an American Lord of the Flies, where civilization’s rules fail and animal instincts rule.

As in the novel, the narration is given to Ed (Nick Paglino) who, along with good buddies Bobby and Drew is taken in by the charismatic Lewis’ alluring picture of a juicily risky weekend on the river, appealing to both the macho and adolescent in them all.  The action centers on a shiny black square that serves multi-duty as the river, the forest and everything in between.  The actors embody the plot with minimum means, miming rowing, shooting arrows and wandering through dense undergrowth.  It is clear that each person brings his own baggage and neediness.  Bobby (Jarrod Zayas) is overweight and unsure; Drew (Sean Tant) needs to stick a strict moral compass; Lewis (Gregory Konow) is the boy/man, validated only by his testosterone; and Ed, the most level-headed is the most complex.  As in the novel & film, they encounter savage—likely inbred—locals, and suffer through harrowing indignities and physical trauma.  Only an eerie interlude, echoed in the original, in which Drew plays a guitar duet with a local hillbilly provides a false sense of empathy, making the subsequent violent episodes even harsher in contrast.

As the locals, Jason Bragg Stanley, Bryce Hodgson and Eddie Dunn are perfectly—and frighteningly—cast.

The acting and Joe Tantalo’s direction do what they can to give heft to the show, but even the infamous rape scene performed arm’s length from the audience, didn’t elicit the necessary horror.  Sean Tyler’s adaptation is smart and smoothly theatrical, but suffered from the lack of scenic splendor, although Maruti Evans’ brilliant lighting, Ien Denio’s evocative sound design, Orli Nativ’s exacting and witty costumes and the original music by Danny Blackburn & Bryce Hodgson helped flesh out the story.

Deliverance – through November 9, 2014
59 East 59th St. (between Madison and Park Aves.)
New York, NY
Tickets:  212-279-4200 or
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
More Information: