Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Time Out Theater Review: "The Library"

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The curtain has risen on the Public Theater's presentation of "The Library." Time Out New York's David Cote filed the following review for NY1.

Film director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns picked a hot-button topic for their New York theatrical debuts. "The Library" is about the aftermath of a school shooting. Do they hit the mark in this atmospheric study of truth, memory and guilt?

Told in a series of minimalist, often backlit scenes on a sparse set of library tables and glossy surfaces, the design of "The Library" announces itself as a stylized dissection of the slipperiness of perception.

The main figure in the drama is sophomore Caitlin Gabriel, played by the intense yet ethereal Chloë Grace Moretz. Caitlin was severely wounded by a 21-year-old graduate who returned one horrific day with a gun. Eleven people die in the carnage in the library. One surviving student identifies Caitlin as a girl who told the killer where others were hiding. This sets off a police investigation, community backlash and deep tensions in the girl’s already broken household.

Despite the lack of fleshed out characters and Soderbergh’s reliance on static, artificial blocking, the actors are compelling. Moretz has a brooding innocence and Jennifer Westfeldt and Michael O’Keefe stand out as decent but dysfunctional parents. Soderbergh evokes arresting tableaux and solid performances, but he can’t get Burns’ formulaic trauma drama off the ground. It’s as if Robert Wilson staged an episode of "Law & Order: SVU."

It’s neat to see a film director of Steven Soderbergh’s gifts bringing his storytelling prowess to the stage, especially after announcing his retirement from film. Next time I hope he tackles material of a higher caliber.

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