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New Light Theater Project at A.R.T./New York Theatres, New York City

Meaningful Conversation
4.0Reviewer's Rating

Everything is dark. It’s 2006, and if you’re a New Yorker you’ll have already connected the dots: we are in a cozy, untidy apartment bedroom in Astoria during the infamous Queens blackout. A man stumbles into the bedroom and starts going performing his nighttime rituals, modified for the lack of electricity and the intense heat wave: pulling off clothes, carefully lighting battery-operated lanterns, and falling into bed like a child.

This is David (Denver Milford), our protagonist. There is a lot to learn from the details of his apartment,, but we don’t get time to absorb them all before a woman appears on the fire escape outside of David’s window.

There are, in fact, two eponymous meaningful conversations that make up this show. The first begins when Nat (Bethany Geraghty), David’s feisty upstairs neighbor, climbs down the fire escape and taps on his window with a pint of melting ice cream. She makes herself instantly comfortable in his home, chastising him for the scratchiness of his comforter and the juvenility of his chosen decorations, and when she is done probing through his apartment, she begins to probe him: his past, his future, his thoughts, his passions. David squirms under her scrutiny, but he is willing enough to give in to her questions – and to ask some questions of his own.

Writer Owen Panettieri’s dialogue is sharp and witty and times, at other times sweet. David and Nat’s dialogue reveals even more about their characters – where explicitly or implied – than the clutter of David’s apartment. Their conversation quickly becomes more intense than perhaps either of them realized. David and Nat are two very different people, and yet they speak easily with each other, trading ideas and then secrets and then dark pasts. The sudden intimacy is partially due to Nat’s unusually blunt manner of conversation. However, there is obviously a kind of easy, natural connection between these two neighbors who had only met hours earlier.

As Act II opens, the changes in David are palpable. It is two years later, and his room is tidier and his possessions are more grown-up. Nat is nowhere to be seen. As David embarks on the second meaningful conversation of the play, this time with a girl named Lydia (Bertha Leal) who has spent the night with him, it’s clear that the way that he speaks and thinks is more mature as well. Though it seems like he’s written off the night with Nat as an bizarre blip in his relatively normal life, her influence is everywhere, even repeating to his new conversationalist things that Nat had told him two years earlier.

It would be difficult to say what exactly is the takeaway from this show. It’s a beautifully done character study of three people. It’s also a sweet study into the intimacy that can exist between two people getting to know each other for the first time. And there are darker, looming themes as well: mental health, addiction, domestic abuse, and privilege lurk in the shadows of the conversation (or scream through the thin complex walls) as David gets to know both Nat and Lydia.

Panettieri’s character are fleshed out and unabashedly human, and the actors bring them to life with tenderness. But perhaps because it is so human, there is no real happy ending to either meaningful conversation. Both leave the conversationalists and the audience slightly unsettled, and with the desire to strive to be a better person.

About The Author

Editor & Reviewer (NYC)

Austin studied English language and literature at Fordham University in the Bronx, and realized her passion for theatre as a student abroad in London. She has worked as journalist in Newtown and as a researcher for NBC. She harbors an avid love for William Shakespeare and likes to carry a book with her wherever she goes. Usually found in or around New York City.

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