There isn't a lot of time left to see this play so I suggest you get your fanny in gear and make a call. No seat is a bad seat in this theater, even the front row where I sat. The stage is raised a good three feet to make room for an unnecessary hydraulic lift, and I was looking directly up at the actors. Made me realize how my cats must see me all the time. No wonder they like shelves.
Anyway, this is a remarkable play, not only for the writing but for the mostly terrific performances, in particular Jessi Campbell and Kenneth Tigar. These two actors latch onto the rollercoaster of a plot and swoop you into the ride with them. It makes for mighty fine theater.
Secret Order is a story of hope and treachery, set in the world of scientific research. William Shumway (Dan Coleman) is a young man so passionate about his work that a fun night out for him would be watching mold grow. His discovery of a possible cure for cancer brings the wolf to his door in the form of Robert Brock (Larry Pine), the director of a medical research company who is driven to succeed because failure nearly asphyxiated him. And if this new project doesn't work, you get the feeling he might leap off the stage and choke each member of the audience.
Add to the mix a hungry graduate student (Campbell), and a research scientist (Tigar) who may have "obsolete" written on his forehead but thinks only about the director's balls that he holds in his hand. Nicely, nicely, Johnson.
What starts out as a journey of hope gets tripped up by dishonesty, doubt, and desperation. The fall is incremental and we watch it as we might watch a sand castle dissolving in a slow rising tide. Integrity is gone before we know it. In its place are maneuvering, parries and thrusts. What begins as survival of people ends as survival of the fittest. And the outcome is left up in the air, like a coin paused in mid-toss. We get no resolution, just satisfaction.
Which is okie dokie with me.
Secret Order - by Bob Clyman, Directed by Charles Towers.
With: Jessi Campbell (Alice Curiton), Dan Colman (William Shumway), Larry Pine (Robert Brock), Kenneth Tigar (Saul Roth)
Scene Designer: Bill Clarke, Costumer Designer: Martha Hally, Lighting Designer: Dan Kotlowitz Through Dec. 9 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Manhattan; (212) 279-4200.