Printable CopyNOCTURNE
Bakehouse Theatre
Until 19 Nov 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

This reviewer is unlikely to forget his first (and thus far, only) experience trawling NYC’s Broadway for a hot ticket; Jefferson Mays in the Tony-winning, one-man, “I Am My Own Wife” looked like a sure bet for a great night out – and well might it have been, were patrons not sadly informed upon their arrival at the theatre: “Mr Mays is ill and unable to perform; please come back tomorrow for a full refund”…

Such are the potential hazards of putting your talent on the line in a solo performance; Tom Gentry deserves acknowledgment for the bravery required in doing just that. When a solo performer decides to take to the stage on opening night while dealing with their own illness, as was apparently the case with “Nocturne”, it means that a reviewer assigned to that performance must inevitably make allowances for certain shortcomings. It is also fair to wonder, though, based on the available evidence, just how much more this production was likely to have achieved, had circumstances for the performance-as-rehearsed been absolutely ideal.

The protagonist of this play is the only voice – and the only direct perspective – that we are able to experience, and within a very short time, he begins to radiate symptoms that feel sociopathic. The playwright, Adam Rapp, manages to insert occasional dry humour, as well as some evocative descriptions of happy observations that serve as a poignant contrast to the surrounding dark – but it is certainly a challenge to remain emotionally engaged by a central character whose thoughts and emotions feel as opaque, as detached, and as remote as they do here.

In the home stretch, however, a person with identifiable fears, feelings, and problems begins to emerge, and even manages to attain our understanding and sympathy. This is no mean feat, and should be considered a credit to both Gentry and Rapp; it’s just such a long time coming that some viewers may not be willing to tough it out.

Gentry demonstrates a reasonably well-judged sense of rhythm in his delivery of the role, but the hushed, muted nature of the performance made it far too easy to miss key words that would likely have aided understanding. Another factor that limited the impact of the play was the sheer minimalism of its staging; there seemed little to be gained by presenting this material in a theatre as opposed to on radio. (Rapp apparently intended “Nocturne” to feature a number of supporting actors making their physical presences felt on stage, while remaining virtually mute.)

The fact that the actor operated as his own director suggests that a collaborator with an extra set of eyes, ears, and opinions could have enhanced and enriched this production in a positive way, allowing it to reach its true potential. That being said, Tom Gentry shows definite signs here of being a performer capable of projecting true power and charisma on stage; one awaits his next show – whatever it may be and whenever it may come - with interest.