Reread Another is a collection of Stein’s sometimes illuminating, sometimes moving, and sometimes completely ridiculous linguistic portraits arranged into a series of discrete scenes. Spoken by three actors taking on various roles from sailors to shrubs, the text is an angular, twisting mix of paradoxes, circular logic, and contradictions that achieve satisfying moments of coherence when we least expect them to. Although the performance lacks any sort of cohesive story, it amounts to a shockingly moving evening, providing its viewer the unique sense that something indescribably interesting, perhaps even important, has occurred.
While this performance of Reread Another may not entirely silence some viewers’ protestations that putting Stein’s generally plotless text up onstage does little to enhance its artistic value, David Herskovits’ direction does well to appropriately match its source material’s style. His actors move about The Brick’s deep stage, engaging in seemingly random activities from gift opening to napping to squabbling. They make silly faces, they mime, and sometimes they stare longingly into space for considerable lengths of time. If Stein’s writing evokes a sort of literary cubism, Herskovits’ direction transposes that style into its stage counterpart, at once jagged and finessed.
Likewise integral to the show is the “Sound Demon” Jesse Freedman, who not only controls the production’s unrelenting barrage of audio cues, but also joins the rest of the cast for occasional onstage antics. Punctuated by Jennifer Resier’s purposefully poorly synced lighting design and Ásta Benne Hostetter’s set cluttered with assorted tchotchkes, the soundscape of the production is a text in its own right, at times abrupt and poetic.
Thankfully, the committed cast is equally on board with Stein’s text and Herskovits’ vision, offering their talents as simultaneous clowns and dramatic performers. While Clare Baron flashes a sardonic smile and serenades us with a piano solo, Purva Bedi stands with great poise and restraint while shedding a single tear. Meanwhile, Ugo Chukwu provides some much needed physical comedy to the evening of often-incomprehensible gibberish.
Regardless of your opinion of the merits, if any, of Stein’s polarizing modernism, Target Margin’s Reread Another succeeds at achieving its goal. This production’s interpretation of her work appears as an effort to expose the limitations of words, to analyze the problems of communication, and to fight against the urge to make complete sense. If you like that sort of thing, you will love Reread Another; if you don’t, this iteration will likely do little to change your mind. If you have no opinion on such works, you owe it to yourself to check it out and develop an informed one. But don’t worry if you don’t entirely get it: that’s just as it should be.
Reread Another (through October 17, 2015)
Target Margin Theater Company
The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
For tickets, call (718) 285-3863 or visit http://www.bricktheater.com
Running time: 55 minutes with no intermission