Like Franz Xavier Kroetz’s Request Concert, in which a woman spends a wordless evening at home, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night narrows the field of view. Often nothing happens, or Marie’s shabby London studio apartment is empty. Or she watches TV with no sound — it’s broken — scrunched on a tattered chair. And she and Lorraine talk with Mamet-like eighth-notes and Pinteresque pauses.
Short scenes move slowly, even court tedium because they take so much time. But in some ways the 90-minute, two-character play has a third: Time. Since the focus has so narrowed, the slow pace becomes palpable, even weighty. Obviously Marie and Lorraine need time to adjust, reorder their lives, and find their way.
That’s because they were cellmates in prison. They did time and now, outside, everything moves too fast.
Both appear imploded.
Without an ounce of sentiment, the playwright follows their attempts to readjust. And does so without the usual theatrical devices — exposition, backstory — to explain who they are or the crimes they committed.
Information comes in snippets from unexpected sources: Marie talks of watching raindrops race down a window; one blindfolds the other and they play “floppy dollies,” a guess-where-you-are prison-game now played in an apartment not much larger than their cell.
Some changes happen, or at least signs of them. The clothes on the bed — laundry or leftovers — become a bit more organized. As does the apartment since Lorraine has a near-agoraphobic fear of going outside and keeps busy by tidying things up.
There are flashes of revelation: one night Marie comes home, dressed like a hooker, and rushes into the bathroom to change clothes. And seemingly passive Lorraine — age 50? — unleashes a lightning bolt of rage. Then recoils.
Lorraine also has the telling remark: “Not everyone can be all right, Marie. The world isn’t like that.”
If so, then Lorraine exists between worlds. She still holds out a smidgen of hope that things can be otherwise. It appears that Marie, whose fidgeting reflects her many fears, agreed with Lorraine before she made the point.
For Ion Theatre, director Claudio Raygoza takes a daring risk. He honors the play’s languid tempo, which might approximate how doing time in prison feels (and, for those who want their theater easily explained and resolved, which might feel like imprisonment in the Ion’s Blackbox space). Uncredited, up-tempo music brings in the rush of the outside world between scenes.
As Lorraine, ever-versatile Yolanda Franklin relies on the power of suggestion. She’s at once mute and talky, assertive and withdrawn — and always true to those difficult combinations.
Rhianna Basore’s edgy Marie has streetwise eyes and a mind that edits the world to fit her nihilistic point of view.
Both perform well together — in a piece denying them the usual actor’s coordinates — though their thick British accents are so correct they tend to garble words. And both convey the unsettling take-away that they are somewhere on a mountainside, but whether they’re going up or down, or even know which is which, remains uncertain.
As does the sense that their apparent honesty may have been a fiction all along.