Poor Eric Argyle. He was just killed by a car as he crossed the street. Now he is in a holding area for the recently departed, grilled by a tough-minded inquisitor, as key points in his life are reenacted and examined. Why is Eric Argyle’s life being analyzed and appraised? This is the central question in the Irish theatrical company, 15th Oak’s somewhat whimsical, slightly melancholy and, overall, finely acted production of The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, playing through September 29th at the 59E59 Theater.
There were a number of key moments, pinpoints in time that affected the course of significant decisions Argyle made during his lifetime. At first, it is rather confusing what these scenes have in common or why they are so important. It is a question Eric Argyle asks throughout the show. Only towards the end of the 90 minute, intermission-less production do we have an idea of the reason behind the probing inquiries and dissection around portions of his former life. We also have the answer to why an apparently innocuous cellist, suddenly inundated with a delivery of 5,307 letters in the middle of the night, is a crucial part of the story. Incorporating music and narrated prose, the vignettes of Eric Argyle’s past, utilizing few props and costumes, are portrayed by an engaging and talented ensemble cast of eight, many playing multiple parts. Their seamlessness from one scene to another as well as their total immersion in their roles is a real hallmark of the production.
Playwright Ross Dungan has written a show that artfully veers from reality to the imagined. He has deftly conjured up a troupe of characters that, by play’s end, we comfortably know and care about. Dialogue is mixed with quick bursts of narration to good effect.
Director Dan Herd has transformed Dungan’s script into a well-paced production. He has taken, what could be described as a difficult concept, and transformed the playwright’s words into an accomplished, thought-provoking piece of work. On the small 59E59 stage, the eight cast members effortlessly and, just as importantly, comfortably glide from one role to the next. There doesn’t seem like a wasted motion or gesture for what could be described as a true ensemble effort.
The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle, an absorbing and captivating theatrical experience, playing through September 29th at the 59E59 Theater.