An absolutely brilliant, deeply emotional piece, Thomas Nohilly’s Blood From a Stone tears at the gut with its wrenching story of dysfunction and destruction. Dark, yet sadly relatable in all of the right places, the play is especially poignant due to its impeccable execution.
Stone’s Travis (Ethan Hawke) is visiting his parents’ small, working-class home in New Britain, Conn., to check on his brother Matt (Thomas Guiry) and his mother, Margaret (Ann Dowd).
The sarcastic, unforgiving Margaret continues to live with an angry, racist husband (Gordon Clapp) from whom she has split. Also popping up in the play are Natasha Lyonne as Travis’ sister, and the talented Daphne Rubin-Vega, who is essentially wasted in one small scene as Travis’ sexual hook-up neighbor.
Travis’ visit is reminiscent of a minefield, because he finds himself lost amid his imploding family.
Every aspect of this production is in sync with the downward spiral of a family at odds with one another.
As they grapple with their resentment for one another, they simultaneously come to terms with their own psyches.
Director Scott Elliott has done an exceptional job of creating an environment for the actors under which their troubled selves are only complemented by the nuances of their surroundings.
The roof of the lived-in home is falling apart throughout the course of the play, a symbolic parallel to the maelstrom of this family’s lives.
Water seeps from the ceiling, and the stage seems to rattle as dust falls from the rafters in a moment of shocking clarity for one of the characters.
Elliott’s talented imprint is on the slow, guttural way in which Hawke’s Travis speaks, the stomping and trudging of shoes, and the natural choreography of the actors’ plights, all of which makes this play so powerful.
Nohilly’s story gets under the skin, and the casting for Blood From a Stone perfectly complement the sentiments in his script.
Hawke brings a subtle depression to Travis, as he revisits a home that steered him down a bumpy life path.
Dowd’s Margaret is the most intricate, and the hardest to swallow–as she should be. Audiences will sympathize with her, cry with her and want to smack her in the face as she moves forward and back in unhealthy cycles.
Dowd is masterful in bringing the audience in for the ride.
Most outstanding is Clapp’s performance as patriarch Bill. His inner turmoil is most on display in Act Three when small bits of nostalgia squeeze through a role shrouded in gruff anger, avoidance and insecurity.
Bill’s penchant for saying, “Huh?” and “Wha?” as his family attempts to communicate with him proves his nostalgic disconnect… or that he is hard-of-hearing. Due to Clapp’s clueless expressions, audiences are never sure how this clever touch is intended.
There’s so much to take away from Blood From a Stone, and it leaves ample room for re-examination.
Audiences will be compelled to see the show a second time to enjoy the characters’ development and to stew over their downfalls.
The story also has its humorous moments, which serve to counter the intensity of the unfolding drama, and provide some respite from the dismal familial plot.
None of the characters really listen to one another, and getting them to change would be very much like getting blood from a stone.
Perhaps the ultimate message behind the show is that it’s easy (and sometimes fun) to analyze others’ problems, but self-examination is a complex process- one that translates well for the stage. Blood From a Stone is inspired in all facets of interpretation, and it would be a shame to be missed.
The New Group’s Blood From a Stone is playing at Theatre Row through February 19th. Theatre Row is located at 410 West 42nd Street. Visit www.thenewgroup.org for more information.