NY1 Theater Review: "Tribes"
Celebrated director David Cromer returns to the off-Broadway theater scene with the new family drama "Tribes." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.
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Within families, often the unspoken is louder than any uttered words. Nina Raine's exquisite play "Tribes" examines the dynamic among members of a highly verbal family who are seemingly deaf to one another.
Staged in the round by David Cromer with tremendous sensitivity, the play reveals, in a very realistic light, a family in distress. When we first meet them, they're deep in conversation... rather, deep in argument.
This is a smart, contentious bunch led by Chris, a sharply opinionated academic and beleaguered mom Beth. Adding to stress levels, their three adult kids are still living at home Daniel is writing a book on language; Ruth is an aspiring opera singer and the youngest, Billy, was born deaf.
As they clamor to make their points, talking over one another in belittling fashion, it becomes clear no one is really interested in hearing what the others are saying... except ironically Billy, who reads lips. He never learned sign language, which kept him in the dark most of his life. That is until he meets Sylvia, a young woman going deaf herself. She opens his eyes to the powers of silence and it allows him to truly understand what he's missed all those years.
The play enlightens on so many levels and it's brilliantly acted. Mare Winningham and Jeff Perry displaying the exasperation of parents who think they know better but really don't.
Will Brill's Danny descending into speechless madness, Gayle Rankin as Ruth desperate to find her true voice, Susan Pourfar's touchingly calibrated performance as a woman losing her grip on the hearing world and Russell Harvard, deaf in real life, is just perfect.
So intimate and honest is Cromer's meticulously crafted production, the audience feels as if it's eavesdropping. And yet within this very personal story of a troubled family is a deeply universal work. It speaks volumes about the very simple need to listen.