What can be categorized as “Downtown Theater” is not so much about location anymore, but a stepping away from theater tradition. Perhaps the direction avoids realism, or the playwriting avoids plot. Jenny Schwartz’s new play, God’s Ear, in every way fits into this downtown aesthetic, and is a shining example thereof.
In essence, God’s Ear is about the tension between the alienation people feel after tragedy, and their desperate need to still connect with others. Mel (a wounded Christina Kirk) and Ted (a confused and hardened Gibson Frazier) lost their son after a swimming accident. We watch them, with their young daughter, stumble through post-tragedy moments: Apparitions mix onstage with the real, bringing an otherworldly feel to the goings-on, and a stream-of-consciousness sound to the words. Time passes, we are not sure how much, and the emotional distance between these characters stays deep. All the while, heartbreaking and humorous snippets of conversation add depth.
God’s Ear is dissonant theater — not following an “easy listening” pattern, or anything remotely close to a linear storyline. So at times it may seem to border on theater medicine. But it’s all worth it. Schwartz’s voice is a far cry from anything you could catch on Broadway, but it also provokes and enchants in the purest sense — without flash and larger-than life spectacle.