Review: "Scissors" Cuts to the Heart of the Human Condition

Scissors

Written by Cornelius Boeder

Directed by Luísa Galatti; Associate Director: Stella Rae

Presented by Luísa Galatti at Teatro LATEA

107 Suffolk St., 2nd fl.

November 21-27, 2022

Hannah Abdoh, Aedan Jayce, and Cornelius Boeder. Photo courtesy Luísa Galatti
Albert Camus identifies whether to commit suicide as "the one truly serious philosophical problem," and it is one that hangs over Cornelius Boeder's new play, Scissors, currently part of the New York Theater Festival. Suicide is not the only avenue open to the characters of Scissors as a response to life's absurdity, and these options range from human connection to more dubious impulses, with the line separating them sometimes blurred at best. Darkly funny, Scissors takes a keenly absorbing look at one existential question that can never be satisfactorily answered: What now?

Casper (playwright Boeder) and Cleo (Hannah Abdoh) are already seated at a table, making quiet but animated first-date conversation while the audience is seated, and, in a nice bit of boundary-blurring, the start of the show proper is marked only by an attention-grabbing voiceover the exact import of which will not become clear until later. Small talk doesn't cut it on this particular date, as the conversation is steered towards subjects such as whether there is an excitement in the proximity to death and what represents the worst thing that each has done. Along with their musings, the two share some shots and a drink with the symbolically resonant name of "defibrillator," and by the time Casper invites neighbor Calvin (Aedan Jayce) to come in off the ledge–literally–and talk things out, Cleo and Caspar are a couple. But if Casper sometimes loses his patience for the affable Calvin, it is Cleo's consuming drive for new experiences that he finds to be an increasing source of conflict.

During an argument, Cleo makes a sharply observed point about the circularity of her journey so far, and she may be right about the repetitious monotony of most lives, but one might fairly question whether her solution is sustainable (and, in some cases, ethical). At the same time, it is not clear that Casper's solutions, such as, in one memorable scene, role-playing therapy, have their desired effect, and Cleo is the one to advocate to Casper that he keep living. The slightly heightened reality of Scissors is balanced well by very naturalistic performances from the excellent cast, from the authentic-feeling rhythms and emotional beats of the conversations down to the reflection of Cleo's mental restlessness and attempts at deflection in her lack of physical stillness. In this vivid realization, Scissors is as often striking as it is understated, sometimes simultaneously. Casper is probably right when he posits on that first date that sharing all of oneself, even the weird, dark, abhorrent stuff that unavoidably runs through everyone's minds, would not be a livable strategy–but it sure makes for good theater.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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