Part of the Brits Off Broadway series at 59E59 Theaters, Tremor is more of an actors’ exercise than it is a play. The two-character work concerns Sophie and Tom who come together for the first time in years. They are two of seven who survived a bus accident which killed 32 and which may have been a terrorist act on the part of the bus-driver, who, we’re eventually told, was “Muslim.” Like so much else that transpires in this 60-minute dialogue by Brad Birch, it’s an unresolved enigma.
Though Sophie suffered a “broken arm” and a “fractured shoulder” in the accident, she also came to forgive the driver, who was apparently drunk. And as they continue to recall the details surrounding the accident, Sophie and Tom become increasingly antagonistic, since Tom continues to blame the driver for what occurred. Or is there something else going on between them, which never really becomes very clear?
And since they don’t seem to have anything else in common except for the accident, Tom wants to know why Sophie has come to see him. Is it because she wants to alter his attitude towards the driver and his responsibility for the accident?
After visiting the bus-driver in the hospital, where he’s dying of cancer, Sophie has driven to Tom’s, but it quickly becomes clear that no love has been lost between them. Tom even resents that Sophie went to see the driver, saying, “And just because we survived, it doesn’t mean we’re not victims either.”
While director David Mercatali has them continually circling each other like boxers in a ring–sparring emotionally, if not physically–Sophie and Tom never really connect or even touch each other, except late in the play when they hold each other’s hand for but a moment. Though they remain somewhat aloof and distant from each other no less than from us, they are given vivid life by the actors who portray them: Lisa Diveney as Sophie and Paul Rattray as Tom.
Diveney displays a wide range of emotions in an otherwise fleeting moment, looking exasperated, then bewildered, and finally smiling, as she points to an invisible picture on the fourth wall. This is while Tom has gone offstage, ostensibly to his kitchen, to fetch them each a proper British cup of tea. When he returns, Tom asks the puzzled Sophie what she thinks of the picture, and the most she can say is, “It’s uh. Yeah.” But then she asks if it was made by his son, and Tom responds that “It’s from IKEA.”
Apart from a large gray and white circle in the center of the stage –which resembles a moonscape and adds to the boxing-ring effect–there aren’t really any design elements worth mentioning. Add to this that both Sophie and Tom are clad in jeans and simple tops, so designer Hayley Grindle hasn’t contributed very much to the enterprise.
Tremor (through June 10, 2018)
Brits Off Broadway Festival 2018
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.59e59.org
Running time: 60 minutes without an intermission