Moves and Countermoves

Original photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash.
Six actors. Two plays. One author. How many stars?

By Andrew Andrews

Moves and Countermoves is a set of two new one-act plays by James Crafford, presented as a single production at American Theatre of Actors.

In the first piece, This Game is Not Over, an elderly invalid with a successful career writing smut novels confronts her husband’s prudish ex-lover and current companion with shocking information about their common past.

The second story, aptly-named After the Hanging, pits a southern white bartender against his friend, a Klan member, when a black woman he knows and respects appears at his back door after her saintly husband is lynched for a crime he couldn’t have committed.

Although both plays are quite traditional in both format and subject matter, the production takes place in the ATA’s Beckmann Theatre, which is branded as an experimental space.

This Game is Not Over builds a little slowly, with mild tension between the husband and his former lover as she gently scolds him for his impatience playing chess.

When the invalid wife appears and sends hubby on an errand so she and the companion can share a little “girl talk,” the dialogue slowly shifts from uneasy to the unexpected.

After the Hanging is almost the direct opposite of its predecessor, with a biting script and relentless tension, chock-full of the N-word to make the situation even more uncomfortable.

The acting and directing here are also superb, and the only flaw we could find with this rendition was the anachronistic street clothes worn by the Klan member.

Although my partner didn’t enjoy either play as much as I did, separately I would rate the first piece on the low end of four stars, and the second on the low end of five. Together, it only seems fair to average the two together, with the price tag feeling about five bucks too high, considering the duration and overall production value.

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Andrew Andrews attended Moves and Countermoves at American Theatre of Actors Beckmann Theatre in New York on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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