Red Dog Howls

Michael Peretzian’s chiseled staging of Alexander Dinelaris’ new play establishes a portentous tone from the start. Matthew Rauch plays brooding Michael Kiriakos with crisp eloquence in speeches to the audience that are a more arty version of Joe Friday’s in Dragnet. Dinelaris has the poor guy telling us, via many direct audience addresses and in a variety of permutations, that some awful truth is about to unfold, rather than simply allowing that awful truth to unfold. Michael has an unborn child, a slipping marriage and an Armenian heritage he knows little of that’s about to come crashing down on him. The dragnet of this play is Michael’s search for his past and, therefore, himself — a source of the understandable and tartly expressed frustration of his pregnant wife (Darcie Siciliano). Letters from Michael’s late father lead him to the Washington Heights home of his paternal grandmother, Vartouhi Afratian (Kathleen Chalfant); the play finds its stride in Michael’s many visits to Vartouhi, who, like Dante’s Virgil, leads him step by calculated step into the cauldron of the 20th century’s first genocide. Chalfant’s performance is simply masterful — so stoic and forged from steel that her tumult of emotions seems to explode in the space between her and her grandson, while he ducks for cover until there’s no place left to hide. Her climactic revelation is emotionally awesome, in the traditional sense of that word, but Dinelaris’ foreshadowing is text-messaged, undermining his attempt to capture the unspoken mysteries of history and its darkest revelations. Mon., May 19, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Starts: May 19. Continues through June 7, 2008


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