Before and After.

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Posts, Theater.


Chad Beckim’s smart new
play, After.
,
is only an act long but finds protagonist Monty (Alfredo Narciso) embarking on
the third act of his young, interrupted life. Recently exonerated and released
into the care of his sister, Liz (Maria-Christina
Oliveras),
after serving 17 years on a wrongful rape conviction, Monty
has to tentatively re-acclimate to a largely foreign world. There is no
stumbling to be found in Beckim’s assured play, however, helmed by Stephen
Brackett and currently running at The Wild Project.

To Monty, the world
isn’t welcoming—it’s overwhelming. Narciso gives a textured performance as
Monty has trouble with even the most seemingly benign of tasks, such as buying
a toothbrush or going to the movies. He nails what it is to be a human in
stasis. Monty, who was only 17 when he was put behind bars, is once again a
free man, but Narciso—one of the New York theater scene’s better-kept secrets—makes
clear through a series of measured choices that the man is still very much in a
cocoon.

He certainly gets by
with a little help from his friends. Like last year’s A Bright New Boise
, another incisive work
from Partial Comfort Productions, After.
brims with a motley crew of characters
who would err on the side of caricature if they weren’t so well fleshed out by
their portrayers. As Susie, Jackie Chung (Narciso’s co-star in last year’s Microcrisis
) gives a winning turn
as the woman who might be just the tonic Monty needs, peeling back the layers
to show what lurks beneath her initial burst of moxie.

So, too, does Debargo
Sanyal avoid scenery chewing as Warren, the distractible doggie daycare manager
who employs Monty. And Boise
’s Andrew Garman as Chap, a priest who knew
Monty during his incarceration, uses enough shorthand with Narciso to suggest
an honest relationship, one that might have been what it took to keep Monty
going during his years behind bars.

All of these portraits
may only be thanks to the blueprint provided by Beckim, who creates an
appealing universe of quirk that rarely goes too far. What stands out is just
how economical After.
is. Beckim lets his characters’ behavior fill in story
details rather than relying on clumsy exposition, allowing the audience to
piece together the puzzle, surmising information on their own. The playwright
shades in his work so well that even offstage relationships are palpable, as is
the case with Monty and one of the dogs after whom he tends. (Daniel Kluger’s sound
design fluidly eases After.
’s transitions.)

After. moves in ways that feel
natural but never predictable. (Only one scene near the play’s end comes off as
gratuitous.) And it offers no easy resolution for Monty; at play’s end, his
journey is by no means over, but we feel he is on his way—just like the
creative talent behind this show.

After.

Through Oct. 8, The Wild
Project, 195 E. 3rd St. (at Ave. B), www.partialcomfort.org; $18.

..