THEATER REVIEW: The Night Watcher

A plethora of contradictions abound in The Night Watcher, the new one woman show written and performed by actress Charlayne Woodard, and while it is at times touching and insightful, the confusion caused by occasional conflicts make it fall short of the mark. The work, which is directed by Daniel Sullivan, is dedicated to Mrs. Woodard’s life of impacting children even though she has had none of her own and while the stories occasionally make an impact, the evidence is a contrast to glorifying the virtues of not having kids. This inconsistency, along with the performance, feels staged and seems to point to a lack of real honesty in the work.

The performance clocks in just over two hours and the stories are varied with touches of humor, abuse, humility, pretension, joy, and denial but the ultimate point of the piece is never really clear, instead the work serves as more of a meditation of sorts without any clear consensus. The performance is as varied as the narratives but the frantic pace and overacting at points clashes with the more refined and soulful elements that seem to touch a more personal note in her life. Where Mrs. Woodard does shine is when things get real and her energetic, chaotic veneer is lifted for a brief moment of connection- it doesn’t happen often but it does make the work worthwhile. One of the other real strengths of the piece is its lighting design by Geoff Korf which elevates the drama extremely well as does the use of projections which is minimal but adds another level to the performance.

Regardless of the issues, the problems that the work deals with are very contemporary and even though the choice whether or not to have children might not be a major issue for every urban New Yorker, the topics are very relatable.

The Night Watcher will be performed through October 31st, 2009 at Primary Stages at 59 East 59th Street and while it doesn’t offer any answers it does raise some interesting questions about the definition of a parent.

Tim Needles

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