Thursday , May 23 2024
La Musica Deuxieme by Marguerite Duras from Blessed Unrest
Photo credit: Maria Baranova

Theater Review (NYC): Blessed Unrest Presents ‘La Musica Deuxième’ by Marguerite Duras

It takes skill indeed to fashion a dynamic drama from a split-up couple’s rehashing of their failed relationship. That Marguerite Duras had what it takes is evident in Blessed Unrest’s new production of her La Musica Deuxième.

The stalwart Off-Off Broadway company has found an ideal venue for the two-hander. The intimate and (for the occasion) wine-soaked Drawing Room on West 30th Street works nicely for La Musica in part because it dresses up well as a comfy hotel lobby. Also, incidentally, because it’s right next door to what used to be the old Music Building, where legions of bands motored through countless rehearsals trying to make their own relationships lasting and fruitful, while flocks of singer-songwriters dried their wings at the Downtime open mic.

Matilda Woods and Taylor “TV” Valentine play Duras’ couple, Anne-Marie and Michel, who are meeting after a few years’ separation to finalize their divorce. Both have moved on to new relationships – but in a sense, neither really has. A quotidian initial conversation, flecked with longing and spite in Barbara Bray’s eloquent translation, evolves quickly into an intense psychological contest of wills – and won’ts.

La Musica Deuxieme by Marguerite Duras from Blessed Unrest
Photo credit: Maria Baranova

Michel, dapper-shabby in a double-breasted vest, comes gradually undone as his lingering obsession (we can’t quite call it love) pushes to the surface. Anne-Marie ends up in a red dress looking ready to party as she reveals her side of their interplay of infidelities. Unfinished business underlies this supposedly finished marriage.

Wine and Woes

The pair flirt, parry, accuse, confess, drink more and more wine, and break the fourth wall to draw us increasingly into an interior world that’s at once dual and unitary. There’s something here greater than the sum of its two parts, even as those parts strike each other raw. The specifics mostly concern what the two did separately during their marriage. But an undercurrent of sexual and emotional tension drives the action. Showing the immanence of this energy is key to a play of interiority like this. Woods and Valentine succeed mightily. Their Anne-Marie and Michele ooze the cold desperation of unfulfilled dreams.

Jessica Burr directs the actors in a stylized way, using formal presentations (reflected in their clothing and the high-end hotel setting) to limn the visceral humanity beneath the initial caution of the characters’ approaches to one another. Their holding-back continues until, well, it doesn’t. Harold Pinter would have recognized Duras’ craft here, and likely appreciated its realization in this comfortingly woozy production. If you are or have been in a committed relationship, whatever its quality or degree of success, you’ll recognize something here, whether it’s something you’ve experienced or something you’re happy to have avoided.

I hadn’t seen a Blessed Unrest production in a few years – since well before the pandemic, I think. I’m very happy they survived that cataclysm and are continuing to produce excellent work in a city that’s becoming increasingly difficult for smaller companies to thrive in. La Musica Deuxième continues only through May 18, so get your tickets now.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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