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Time Out Theater Review: "Slowgirl"

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The world premiere of the play "Slowgirl" recently opened and will be the first show to christen Lincoln Center's new space, the Claire Tow Theater. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following report.

Lincoln Center is giving two debuts for the price of one. First, there’s the space: the Claire Tow Theater just opened, a lovely 112-seat boutique venue on the roof of the Vivian Beaumont. Then there’s the play: also intimate and brand new, it’s “Slowgirl,” a suspenseful, well-crafted two-hander about an uncle and his niece.

Greg Pierce gets to show off some impressive writing chops in his off-Broadway debut. He delineates characters briskly, uses offstage space, builds suspense, releases tension through laughs and grabs your attention with life-or-death stakes. And in Anne Kauffman, Pierce has a first-rate director for evoking a mood of uneasiness.

The actors are both excellent. Sterling, played by Zeljko Ivanek, lives in self-exile in the Costa Rican jungle, where he leads a monkish existence after being implicated in a financial scandal that defrauded Holocaust survivors. Flying in from the States is Sterling’s 17-year-old niece, Becky, played by Sarah Steele, under suspicion for seriously injuring a classmate at a party, a mentally disabled student nicknamed Slowgirl.

Becky is glib, vulgar and morally evasive. Sterling is taciturn, restrained and conscience-stricken. As the relatives get reacquainted, we glean disturbing details about Becky’s actions and see shades of guilt and accountability in both their lives.

The play is perhaps limited in its scope. It feels like it could be a New Yorker short story. But the excellent actors find nuanced ways to expose character and increase the suspense.

“Slowgirl” is a scrupulous two-hander, one you could imagine two flights down in the Newhouse. Maybe that’s a compliment for a fresh theater and a new play: it feels like you’ve been around for years.

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