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Theater review: 'The Hallway Trilogy,' 2 stars

Rose

Rose

The Hallway Trilogy
2 stars

“The Hallway Trilogy” is certainly playwright-director Adam Rapp’s largest project to date. But when viewed as a whole, it comes across as a puzzling, pointless and oversized experiment.

It is made up of three 100-minute dramas — each set 50 years apart — that take place in the same dilapidated hallway of a tenement building on the Lower East Side. Each play has its own director, but the same 14-person cast is used for the entire trilogy. They can be viewed together as a marathon or individually on separate nights.

The Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s stage and seating areas have been physically rearranged in order to display a long hallway with an ascending staircase. The space, which now offers considerably improved sight lines, really ought to be kept this way permanently.

“Rose” (pictured above), the first play of the trilogy, which Rapp himself directed, takes place on Nov. 28, 1953. A young actress who refuses to believe that famed playwright Eugene O’Neill died the day before has come searching for him. While “Rose” lacks a clear plot and consists mainly of seemingly random entrances and exits by characters of varying backgrounds and accents, it is the most mysterious and enjoyable of the three plays.

“Paraffin” is set 50 years later, during the 2003 blackout. It revolves around a drug-addicted musician looking to sell his pregnant wife’s possessions for extra cash and also a wheelchair-bound veteran. Whereas “Rose” had a certain old-fashioned style, “Parsiffal” comes off as mainly static.

“Nursing” takes place in 2053, when all disease has been eradicated. The building has been turned into a museum where a guy is sealed in glass and injected with extinct diseases such as the bubonic plague and cholera. The piece, in which the audience is treated as spectators at the museum, comes off as painfully ridiculous and gross.


If you go: “The Hallway Trilogy” plays at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through March 20. 244 Waverly Place, 212-868-4444, rattlestick.org.

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