For some, loneliness is a subject better left to the existentialists. For Concrete Temple Theatre, it is a subject worth exploring. In Alone in Triptych, the company's production for the SubletSeries at HERE Arts Center, we meet three seemingly disparate characters, whose lives are slowly revealed to be more connected than at first glance. The play (which may just as well be called Alone, in Triptych) is very much an examination of loneliness, and its power to connect those yearning to, well, connect. Written by Renee Philippi, Alone in Triptych is an abstractly-rendered and lyrical piece of theater. As the title suggests, Triptych presents a series of snapshots in the lives of three characters — our first glimpse of whom is at the show's opening. The trio stand in an nondescript location, described in the script as "a dense, forest-like place...where confusion and angst live. The air is alive; it is thick, electric, anxious." There is Leann (Vera Beren), a middle-aged musician in Eastern New Jersey; then, at an army base in Bavaria we meet Lori (Catherine Porter), whose sergeant husband routinely abuses and exploits her. Finally, there is Remi (Michael Tomlinson) in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, England. They are each separated by distance but connected by fate.
The story, which weaves in and out of each character's scenes seamlessly, takes a literally heart-pounding turn when the police show up in her driveway, on the lookout for Leann's boyfriend, Sean, whom she had brought with her to her home in New Jersey, presumably to meet the parents. As the story unfolds, we begin to see that each person is a prisoner of their own solitude. We revisit Leann, who discovers that Sean is charged with raping a young teenage girl. We then move on from the horror of this revelation to Lori, who meets a stranger. Here, she provides some much-needed comic relief with some witty lines about her sexual past — but the humor dissipates all too soon when her new friend, offended with her candor, reveals that his daughter had been raped in the very park in which they sit. Rounding out the third in the triptych of scenes is Remi, who has kidnapped his childhood friend's 12-year-old daughter and brought her to the forest.
The production design of the play provides just as abstract a landscape as the characters in it. It is a world that is vast and sprawling, spanning continents and cultures; yet is so individual to each of the characters. In helping to bring the play's dark themes to life are scenic designer Carlo Adinolfi and sound designer Vera Beren. In dressing the small black box in which the play was performed, Adinolfi kept the stage sparse, in keeping with the imagery of the wilderness. Beren does a great job of punctuating Philippi's poetic prose and conversely painfully tense silences with booming noises off-stage throughout the show. Stefan Hagen's projections of a bird flapping its wings are reminiscent of watercolor artwork, engulfed in bleak, cloudy colors — perhaps representative of the characters' yearning to escape the murky emotional waters in which they are held captive.
While the play's ending felt unresolved, perhaps this is Philippi's intention — that nothing in our lives is ever truly resolved; that we are all in one way or another held captive in our solitude. And yet, in knowing this, we are never alone.
Alone in Triptych ran from March 13–30 in a limited engagement at HERE Arts Center (145 6th Avenue) in New York City.