Theater Review: ‘Mercy’

July 25, 2018
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By Gretchen C. Van Benthuysen | 

Jacob A. Ware (Orville) and and Christopher Daftsios (Ian) starred in New Jersey Rep’s “Mercy”. Photo by Suzanne Barabas

“Mercy,” New Jersey Repertory Company‘s latest world premiere play, concerns a husband whose pregnant wife is killed in a car crash by a drunk driver.

One day, not too long afterward, widower Orville (Jacob A. Ware) sees the out-on-bail driver Ian (Christopher Daftsios) waiting for the subway in New York City, where they both live.

Orville can’t stop himself from following the person who left him heartbroken with a motherless infant daughter. Several transfers later, Orville trails him to a self-help meeting for addicts in a church basement.

Orville stands in the back. He begins nurturing the seed of revenge. He decides to buy a gun.

So far, so good for Adam Szymkowicz’s modern morality play. Many of us might wonder how we would handle such a situation.

Meanwhile, Orvillle’s father Walter (Dan Grimaldi, known for playing twin mobsters Patsy and Philly Parisi on “The Sopranos”) has traveled from his upstate New York home to help his son with his nameless daughter who never cries.

The 90-minute play opens with Orville talking to his daughter. We know nothing of the above scenario, but he’s uncomfortable around her.

Also, it’s his first day back at a financial company where he does risk analysis. His boss Brenda (Nandita Shenoy) keeps telling him “they” are there for him. It really bugs him.

Dan Grimaldi (Walter) and Jacob A. Ware (Orville) play father and son in “Mercy” at New Jersey Repertory Company. Photo by Suzanne Barabas

And in a very few scenes, Brenda begins to overshare about her dysfunctional marriage. In detail. In the office of open-air cubicles. She strongly suggests they should have a “meeting.” In the bar. In the hotel. Across the street.

Written about six years ago, this kind of blatant abuse of power and sexual harassment happened in a private office and probably still does. But in an office cubicle where every conversation can be heard and seen? No.

And while the moral struggle of how to react to seeing the man who turned your life upside down is intriguing, “Mercy” has too many are-you-kidding-me moments.

For instance, the baby never cries, or coos or makes a sound until the moment Orville resolves his issues with Ian. And who changes the baby when Walter isn’t around, as we never see Orville touch her?

Orville and his wife Carrie live in Manhattan, but she dies while driving her car to the store. In the suburbs, yes, but not in a major city with congestion and parking issues. Ian also drives to a bar in the city. How convenient for the plot.

The actors all know what they are doing and handle their parts well. Director Gail Winar and scenic designer Jessica Parks are able to make the small stage serve for least five different locations.

I lost count of the number of scenes, though. Lights go up, actors talk, lights go down. The stop/go aspect creates a jerkiness to the storytelling.

Patricia E. Doherty’s costumes are nicely done, especially those worn by Nandita Shenoy as a corporate executive.

This article first appeared in the June 21 – 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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