On occasion, Gothamist publishes reviews of arts events in the city. The opinions expressed below are solely those of the author.
The Zipper is pretty much the ideal for the Drama Dept.'s staging of Patrick Hamilton’s play Rope, a relatively slow-paced but nonetheless enjoyable psychological thriller. It’s a renovated zipper factory with a cool lounge atmosphere but also old-timey memorabilia; it’s so quaint to think that there used to be such a thing as a zipper factory in midtown. Rope hearkens back to a different age too, and though it’s only 1928 (Hamilton wrote it in 1929) the characters’ British English already sounds awkward and archaic. Brandon and Granillo (Sam Trammell and Chandler Williams), are Oxford students who have committed murder; the thrill element isn’t in finding out who did it or how, but in whether the’ll be found out. Williams in particular projects nervous energy that demonstrates this viscerally and impressively. The two challenge their nerves by inviting a group over for cocktails just hours after the murder: two other young people, an elderly gentlemen and his sister, and a friend who is slightly older than they. Hamilton’s manipulation of these characters in their unwitting participation in Brandon and Granillo’s intrigue isn’t entirely smooth, but the actors are excellent and watching them in ultra-British mode is an experience somewhat akin to sinking comfily into one of the Zipper’s lounge chairs and soaking in the resurrected era.
Even so, and although they do help the plot move along in a few ways, the first two couples don’t add much to the play. It’s Rupert, the older friend (Zak Orth) who is the simultaneously dark and light center of it. Dark because Rupert, a veteran of the Great War (Orth portrays his lingering limps and twitches brilliantly), is a haughty, melancholy fellow who makes nothing but snide comments to the other guests. Light because, due in large part to his experience in the war, he seems to be a kind of beacon of justice and morals His speech to Brandon and Granillo, in the final moments of the play, is quite remarkable, and Orth delivers it with passion. The only problem is that this climax comes after an often lethargic build-up that seems almost cheery given the circumstances, and you’re really not ready for it. Of course, neither are Brandon and Granillo, so catching you off guard like them is perhaps Hamilton’s intent; still, the earlier scenes definitely could be tightened and shortened without diminishing this last-minute explosion. Very little even could diminish that or the sharp swirl of feelings you’re likely to have as you applaud and head out, forced into subdued reflection and (perhaps) feeling the ghosts of the past in the old Zipper building just a little heavier around you.
Details: Rope is at the Zipper Theater, 336 W. 37th St., through Dec. 23. Performances are Tues.-Sat. 8pm, Sat. 3pm, Sun. 2pm & 7pm. Tickets via Telecharge.