‘LOVE’ Is Stark, Powerful—and the Best New Play in New York

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Stephanie Berger Photography/Park Avenue Armory

The most powerful piece of theater currently being staged in New York is taking place in one of its most stunning performance spaces. LOVE (to March 25), written and directed with a stark precision by Alexander Zeldin, is about the residents of a British temporary housing facility, a halfway house while their applications for full-time accommodation are processed. Their precarious situations are mirrored in the play’s naturalistic acting, direction, and Natasha Jenkins’ pungently evocative design of the communal living space where the action takes place.

In the cavernous interior of the Park Avenue Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall, we alight upon a linear strip of institutional, yellow, scuffed walls, basic table, fire exit signs, a sink, and a shared bathroom and individual bedrooms whose interiors we only glancingly see. Outside are tree branches tapping ominously on a window.

This is a communal home stripped of all the niceties of living communally and of home. It is a place of desperation. Marc Williams’ all-too-realistic overhead lighting floods not just the facility with light but also the audience—and then, between scenes or at night, throws us into a soft half-light or total darkness. There are also audience seats on the stage; that the hostel setting bleeds out into the audience area comes to play a significant thematic role as the play nears its climax.

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