3 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Vandal Right Now...and Not Just Because You Can

So, let’s talk about something awesome…PBS is running this “Theater Close-Up” programming, in which select Off-Broadway productions were filmed for a future broadcasting. Like National Theatre Live, but for television! One of the recent debuts was the Flea Theater’s The Vandal, which will air again in the near future and is available for viewing online. And it is well-worth a slot on your DVR or a gathering around your laptop screen with a big-ass bowl of popcorn and here’s why:

Hamish Linklater can WRITE - I mean, who knew? Not that I’m surprised or anything; Hamish has certainly shown himself to be a talent on any stage or television screen. But in his playwright debut, his work here seems…experienced. No broad strokes of dialogue or anything remotely expendable. By keeping the premise simple - an isolated woman meeting a rambunctious teen at a bus-stop in Upstate New York - Linklater just piles on the layers and expands the story forward at a good pace. It’s a short ride and not infallible by any means, but I could have watched the characters in this play converse for hours more.

A World Brought to Life - A person sitting at a bus stop in the dead of the night is as cliche as they come. Bonus points if it is freezing cold out. But it’s that very image The Vandal opens with that stopped me in my tracks, so well-done are David M. Barber’s sets, Brian Aldous’ lighting and Brandon Wolcott’s music and sound. Their contributions throughout the play go far beyond transporting the audience to a different location. They create this ominous mood that is reflected in the woman character and in the tone of Linklater’s writing. I found it difficult to ignore the cold feeling emanating from the stage, literally and metaphorically. Bring a scarf. Or better yet, have a blanket on standby.

The Cast Doing it Right - Deirdre O’Connell and Noah Robbins have a great grasp on their characters and carry the show with ease. The former could tell an entire story using just her body language and side-glances. The latter managed to be a teenage hooligan worth watching - smart, but not-too-smart, and jovial without being (completely) obnoxious. Their first meeting has more friction then dinner with the in-laws, but as the tension dissipates and these performers continue to give such nuanced performances, it's quite a treat.

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

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