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Theatre Review (NYC): Something You Did

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This is a quiet little play about big ideas, like freedom, personal responsibility, and honor. And the lead is a woman. Over twelve years old. I'm not even kidding.

There was an report a few years ago about a woman who had been in the underground in the 1960's. She had created an identity, married, had children, and was living in the suburbs when the police arrived at her door to charge her with murder in some degree.

Something You Did would be her story, were the order of events reversed. Alison Moulton is rounding off three decades in stir, and she wants out. Her father, a big mucky-muck lawyer from whom she estranged herself, has recently died. Arthur, his partner and her lawyer, hopes that the father's death might be the event that shakes Alison up enough to finally name names as payment for her freedom.

The name he would like to have her reveal is that of Gene Biddle, a former lover and partner in crime, presently a filthy rich bastard who left his scruples and his honor on a clothesline somewhere back in the 60's. While Arthur sets up an ambush meeting with Gene, Alison goes her own route of direct appeal, meeting with the daughter of the officer she helped get killed. Neither of these goes very well.

What does go well are the arguments. This isn't mindless patter about lofty ideas, it's point by point debate with very high stakes. Although the woman Joanna Gleason plays is trapped in a building, this gal is vibrant, caring, and a little wild. The woman she was is still tucked inside the woman she has become, and the woman she was wants to get out of prison and back into the land of the living – but not if it means compromise. She will ask for justice on her own terms.

Underneath the debate is the relationship of two women, one a prisoner, and one a guard (Portia). It is this relationship that putt-putts along, shoring up the hyperbole and the grandstanding, and leading to a resolution almost as eloquent as it is surprising.

This is a fine and thoughtful feast for mind and spirit.

SOMETHING YOU DID – By Willy Holtzman; directed by Carolyn Cantor

WITH: Jordan Charney (Arthur), Joanna Gleason (Alison), Adriane Lenox (Lenora), Portia (Uneeq) and Victor Slezak (Gene).

Sets by Eugene Lee; costumes by Jenny Mannis; lighting by Jeff Croiter; original music and sound by Lindsay Jones

Presented by Primary Stages, Casey Childs, executive producer; Andrew Leynse, artistic director. At the 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street; (212) 279-4200. Through April 26. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

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