Dutch Masters

Eric (Ian Duff) questions Steve (Jake Horowitz) on the sofa in Partial Comfort Productions’ Dutch Masters, by Greg Keller, at The Wild Project in Alphabet City. Original photo by Spencer Moses.

By Andrew Andrews

We catch a lot of plays, and the truth is, most of them don’t disappoint us. But it’s quite rare that we get to see a great play (one that we consider worthy of five stars), and even less often that we wish the scale could go just a little bit higher for a performance that knocks us off our feet.

Dutch Masters knocked us off our feet.

Opening with a black box set—consisting of nothing more than a bench and two vertical handrails to represent the inside of a subway car; the back wall scribbled with so many tags that you can’t make any of them out—Eric (Ian Duff) paces the floor perturbed about something, while Steve (Jake Horowitz) sits, rather clueless, reading a science fiction paperback. It’s painfully apparent that these two characters are from different parts of the universe, and when Eric starts to get a little too close to Steve, the tension really starts to build. So much so, in fact, that you shouldn’t be surprised when, as the following “conversation” progresses, the audience starts shouting “no, don’t do it!” as if you’re at the late night showing of a suspenseful slasher flick.

And then, the scene changes to Eric’s living room the way everything changes to Technicolor when Dorothy’s flying house lands in Oz, with a full-on set by Jason Simms that makes you believe you’re in a rent-controlled apartment deep in The Bronx—the kind of place that looks exactly the same “now” in 1992 as it did twenty years earlier—and you know that the privileged Steve is in territory every bit as unfamiliar, and like a farm girl from Kansas, he’s eager to escape this strange land and find his way home.

What playwright Greg Keller gives us next is hardly “magical” but completely unexpected, the interaction between Eric and Steve never heading where you think it’s going to go, but you’re dying to find out what comes next. And in the end, you’re not sure whether you feel more sorry for Steve, or for Eric, or the relationship they could have had if, as Eric puts it, the city don’t give a what.

Dutch Masters is proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to see the best shows in New York, and that the best shows in New York are often about as far as you can get from the Emerald City that is Times Square without leaving Manhattan. Like MUD and Terminus, this is the kind of production that would blow the minds of the folks that spend way too much money on theater district tickets, if only they were savvy (and daring!) enough to follow the yellow brick road from midtown to downtown to catch it. But really, would you expect anything less from director André Holland, whose acting credits include Moonlight and Castle Rock? Of course not. So definitely check this one out, then come back here and tell us how many stars you would give Dutch Masters if you could push the upper limit a little bit past five! Because your review will help others understand why they need to see this show, and your ratings will help us help you find future productions you’ll love every bit as much!

5

Andrew Andrews attended Dutch Masters at Wild Project in New York on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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