THE HANGOVER REPORT – Simon Stephens’ ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD quietly, unobtrusively examines the act of living

Mary McCann and C.J. Wilson in "On the Shore of the Wide World" by Simon Stephens at the Atlantic Theater Company

Mary McCann and C.J. Wilson in “On the Shore of the Wide World” by Simon Stephens at the Atlantic Theater Company

It’s part of human nature to define our lives within a tapestry of overlapping digestible narratives, populated by the good guys and the bad guys. But the experience of actually living is less concrete than a parade of stories. Indeed, lives cannot be confined by conventional storytelling, with a beginning, middle, and an end.

What prolific British playwright Simon Stephens – most famous for his Tony-winning hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – has done in his new play On the Shore of the Wide Worldwhich just opened in a superb Off-Broadway production by the Atlantic Theater Company, is to unobtrusively examine the lives of three generations of a single family and a handful of their associates. Mr. Stephens’ lengthy new play, carefully directed by Neil Pepe with imperceptible forward momentum, initially tried my patience (yet another kitchen sink family drama!). But the play is filled with subtly-drawn, utterly believable portraits and unfolds with both hard-edged objectivity and quiet grace where even a seemingly unimportant passing event can seem as devastating as the passing of a family member. These are lives unmoored yet solidly grounded, and are fueled as much by passion as by indifference (as reflected by the solid unit set by Scott Pask).

The cast is excellent. Of particular note, is the central working-class couple (the “middle” generation) played with heartbreaking realness by Mary McCann and C.J. Wilson. But really, the play is very much an ensemble piece, and the rest of the cast is is exceptional. Mr. Stephens once again proves that he is the master of uncovering the texture of human existence, to devastating effect. In the end, that’s what we have, not the stories.


Play, Off-Broadway
Atlantic Theater Company at the Linda Gross Theater
2 hours, 40 minutes (with one intermission)
Through October 8


Categories: Off-Broadway, Theater

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