Posey Mehta and Ronald Prokeš in one of the four locationsGabriel Agranoff

Intimacy is key in the new Cambridge production After Seymour, directed by Georgie Henley. From the moment you are led into the venue, by a waiter no less, transported into the restaurant, the first setting of the story, you are transported into the reality of Franny and Zooey Glass’s world. Allowing an audience of just 20 people, you are up close and personal with the actors throughout the entire production, confronted with every thought that flickers across their face, every emotion they feel. This intimacy ties in wonderfully with the intensity of the themes of the play: spirituality, authenticity, conformity, and the austerity of coping with, not only the loss of a loved one, but suicide. Throughout the production, the audience moves with the actors around the room of the Pembroke New Cellars, from location to location, causing for smooth, quick scene changes, and the heightened engagement of stepping into the lives of the characters; observing them in their natural habitat, rather than the scene materializing in front of you on a stage.

The performance from each actor of the play was phenomenal. Rob Thomson makes an astounding first impression: he captures the aloof arrogance and self-importance of Lane Coutell beautifully, making the audience equally amused and disgusted with him at the same time. Ronald Prokeš portrays the destructive, ironic monstrous Zooey impressively, though at times failing to illuminate the rare moments of sincerity of the character.  Andreea Tudose’s Franny is clearly tortured: her depiction of Franny’s inner battle and increasing insecurity is both touching and puzzling. Harry Gower’s all-knowing, well-meaning brotherly nonchalance is equally genuine. The gem of the collection, however, is Posey Mehta, posing as the naïve, worried mother. From her accent to her stage presence, Mehta’s delivery of the character is fresh and provides the perfect balance of comic relief to the otherwise grave, tense play. The interaction and relations between each of the characters was authentic and complex, managing to bring the words left unsaid to life.

Although adapted beautifully, staying very true to the dilemmas and conflicts present in J.D. Salinger’s work, the stillness of the play ultimately loses some of the intensity and intimacy so crucial to the production. Consisting largely of many long monologues and very little movement, at times the intrigue and attention of the audience is a little lost in the elaborate speeches of the characters, weakening the effect of the substance and intentions of their words. The stoic blocking, while at times reinforcing the intimacy and intensity, ultimately lacked variety and flow. 

Despite this, the play is a one-of-a-kind production, exhibiting strong talents of both acting and direction. The engagement of the audience, the passion and strength of the story, and the social criticism of conformity and blind acceptance of the work of intellectuals makes for a show that is not to be missed. 

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