A moving "Welcome"
by Peter D. Kramer
November 2, 2010
There's a tug-of-war going on for the heart and mind of 16-year-old Justin Campbell in Howard Meyer's new play "Welcome: This is a Neighborhood Watch Community," opening this week at Pleasantville's Axial Theater.
There's his father: the successful hedge-fund manager Harris Campbell, a solid if detached provider.
And there's his mentor: prep-school teacher John Emerson, who says he can trace his lineage to Ralph Waldo Emerson and who subscribes to his forebear's stand against the acquisitive life.
"Neighborhood Watch" marks a departure from Axial's home-grown approach, welcoming artists from outside the laboratory's circle of actors and directors.
Drama Desk Award-winning director Josh Hecht ("Christine Jorgensen Reveals") cast LABrinth Theater Company co-founder David Deblinger to play the father and Jon Lindstrom ("General Hospital") to play his lawyer friend.
Hecht's concept for the play is to put the audience in the middle of that tug-of-war, with three distinct playing areas in the St. John's Episcopal hall that Axial calls home.
Meyer says cafe-table seating allows theatergoers to shift their seats to take in all the action. But if that's not close enough, Meyer says Hecht offers another option.
"If people want to get up and walk and move to where the action is happening, that will also be invited," the playwright says.
Meyer says that option takes theater's fly-on-the-wall nature to another level.
"I was certainly very curious when he was going in this direction," the playwright says. "I'm not sure I had seen it this way, but now I'm totally charged up about it."
"Welcome: This is a Neighborhood Watch Community," weekends through Nov. 21. 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; 4 p.m., Sundays. $20, $15 for students and seniors. For preview performances Nov. 4 and 5, $15. There is an opening-night reception at 6:30 p.m. before the Nov. 6 performance: reception and ticket for $50. St. John's Episcopal Church, 8 Sunnyside Ave., Pleasantville. 914-962-8828 or axialtheatre.org.