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escaped alone

Escaped Alone At Yale Rep

Caryl Churchill’s 2016 play, Escaped Alone, is a puzzlement, which despite its 55 intermissionless minutes seems to go on forever.

The four women in Yale’s production of Escaped Alone, middle-aged to elderly (although Churchill apparently specified that they are all “at least 70”), sit in a garden and natter on about random topics ranging from one woman’s distaste for cats to the possibility that another might have murdered her husband.

Their conversation is punctuated periodically by one woman’s monologues narrating what is apparently a thoroughly unpleasant future apocalypse in which civilization collapses. That punctuation comes courtesy of blinding flashes of light (by lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge) and a jarring sound cue (Sinan Refik Zafar), which had the perhaps salutary effect of keeping me awake.

The original production of Escaped Alone at the Royal Court in London, which transferred with the same cast to New York in 2017, received rapturous reviews. Reviewers described it as “sizzling,” “light-on-its-feet,” and “wondrous.”

Caryl Churchill is a giant of the contemporary English theatre so I am inclined to take those critics at their word. However, those qualities seem to have eluded director Liz Diamond and her New Haven cast.

Perhaps that’s because in Churchill’s original vision all the women were White, the same age, and apparently from the same social milieu.

Diamond’s production of Escaped Alone embraces the altogether laudable ideal of color-blind casting. It also features a mix of received pronunciation and estuary English accents.

Unfortunately, in this case these choices muddy the social waters and suggest class distinctions that are not present in the text and which Churchill presumably did not intend. Something is lost and nothing added.

Speaking of additions, there is a moment in the original play when the women burst into singing the Crystals’ classic “Da Doo Ron Ron.” In this version, Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road, Jack” has been substituted.

A rights issue? Or is the switch from a joyous song of love to a mordant memorial to a shattered relationship meant to make a point about . . . what exactly?

As is so often the case at the Yale Rep the best part of Escaped Alone is the set, in this case by Lia Tubiana. A minimalist but picture perfect rendition of a backyard English garden is set against soaring video screens on which projection designer Shawn Lovell-Boyle paints luminous yet horrifying abstract visions of the end of the world as we know it.

Escaped Alone continues at the Yale Rep through March 30, 2024. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Yale Rep website.

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