It is raining and dark. I am tired. I approach the stoop of a Chelsea brownstone. White lights arch over the steps leading up to the door. I am warmly greeted — so good to be home. I cross the threshold, and in doing so, I enter into myself. Thus begins the experience of the latest incarnation of Messages, a play by Matthew Gasda, perfectly staged at Torn Page. This performance space in Chelsea is the gracious former home of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page, and was the perfect space for this play. In dream symbology, the house represents the self. Each room in the house is an aspect of the self. The living room stands for daily interactions with others. It is in this room where we, the audience, are seated during this intimate drama about relationships. It is intense, uncomfortably real, and maddeningly hilarious to be so close to the action as it unfolds. For those of us watching, it may as well be a funhouse mirror. Which one of us hasn’t been each of the aspects of the characters at one time or another: the lover, the user, the ambivalent partner, the beloved, the seducer, the other man/woman, the betrayer, and the betrayed? And can someone please tell us why we behave in the ways that we do? It is not so simple to be a human being, especially when we are involved with other human beings. We desire, we are desired, and we think and do the most contradictory things. Will we ever get it right? Will we ever see our true selves? Will we ever be honest with each other? Should we even try? This drama invites us to really look at ourselves (or not.) Delightfully alive/stuck cellist Maisie (Alida Rose Delaney), authentic/smug Max (Babak Mehrabi Parsiyan), impatiently loving/real David (Vincent Santvoord), and jealous artist/seductress Emily (Eliza Vann) are so perfectly cast that I feel I have already met them. But let me correct myself: the labels do these characters — indeed any of us — little good. It is not fair to make a box around any of them, and it is not fair to do so in “real” life. We are too complex for that, and Messages helps us see that complexity. When sitting in a room with emotions writ so large and so palpable, it is hard to make a distinction between audience and actor. And tell me this: does love just happen to us, or is it a conscious choice? You really have to experience this play. Matthew Gasda is asking all the right questions. You have an answer? I am all ears.


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