You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Blessed by Dallas Roberts' technically and emotionally impeccable performance at its grieving heart, Adam Rapp's "Nocturne" is remarkable enough to bear comparisons with Margaret Edson's award-winning "Wit," a work with which Rapp's memory play has more than a little in common.

The Son - Dallas Roberts The Father - Will LeBow The Daughter - Nicole Pasquale The Mother - Candice Brown The Redheaded Girl - Marin Ireland

Blessed by Dallas Roberts’ technically and emotionally impeccable performance at its grieving heart, Adam Rapp’s “Nocturne” is remarkable enough to bear comparisons with Margaret Edson’s award-winning “Wit,” a work with which Rapp’s memory play has more than a little in common.

The first act has too much self-consciously “fine” writing in it; it would benefit from being tighter and less literary. And “Nocturne” is, as its title suggests, an unremittingly dark play, beginning with an accidental death and ending with a death by cancer. But both the play and Roberts’ intense performance will linger long in the memories of those who see it — just as the accident that effectively killed an entire family continues to lurk in the mind of the play’s protagonist.

As the son of a family in Joliet, Ill., Roberts hurtles headlong into “Nocturne,” which consists mostly of his monologue. Rapp’s no-nonsense opening line: “Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” Roberts’ character, once a piano prodigy, is now 32. When he was 17 and his sister was nine, the brakes failed on his old car and it ran her down and beheaded her. After that opening line the character recalls all the many dictionary definitions of “kill” and thoroughly parses the word. Here and elsewhere in the first act, Rapp reveals his roots as a novelist.

But the playwright edits himself much more ruthlessly in act two, cutting much closer to the blood and bone of his central character. The family is utterly shattered by the accident. The mother leaves; the father lapses into clinical depression and is institutionalized (characters are denoted only by their family roles). At one point the father threatens to kill his son, shoving a gun into his mouth.

The son leaves home for New York, where he becomes a novelist; later he discovers he’s impotent. Fifteen years later he returns to Joliet at the request of his father, who, after a reconciliation scene written with beautiful simplicity, dies in his son’s arms.

All of the other characters in the play, with the exception of the father in the closing scene, are either mute or almost so. Each is as well cast as Roberts. Will LeBow is particularly fine as the father, at first uncomprehendingly murderous, then pathetic yet dignified when at death’s door. In her brief scene as the mother, Candice Brown is frozen anguish incarnate. Young Nicole Pasquale as the silent, dead daughter is a real pro throughout. And in an exquisite scene, Marin Ireland, as the protagonist’s girlfriend, manages to project sympathy while standing perfectly still, wordless and naked, as he speaks of his impotence.

Director Marcus Stern and set designer Christine Jones have worked closely together on a production of stark, formalized, minimal movement. The sets mutate subtly: a picture window through which the son and the mother view the dead girl later becomes a shadow box in which the body is displayed and finally the ghastly, claustrophobic room in which the father dies. There’s an applause-getting, trick-perspective set early in the second act that Roberts doesn’t let upstage him. A soundtrack of noises, including wind, piano music, pop songs, chattering children and thunder accompanies Roberts’ astounding monologue.

“Nocturne” doesn’t have as much assured theatrical impact as “Wit.” But it’s still quite a play and quite a performance. Here are a playwright and an actor to watch with keen interest.


Hasty Pudding Theater, Cambridge, Mass.; 360 seats; $35 top

Production: An American Repertory Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Adam Rapp. Directed by Marcus Stern.

Creative: Sets, Christine Jones; costumes, Viola Mackenthun; lighting, John Ambrosone; sound, David Remedios; vocal coach, Patricia Delorey; fight director, Marin Ireland; stage manager, Jennifer Rae Moore. American Repertory Theater artistic director, Robert Brustein. Opened Oct. 15, 2000. Reviewed Oct. 28. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.

Cast: The Son - Dallas Roberts The Father - Will LeBow The Daughter - Nicole Pasquale The Mother - Candice Brown The Redheaded Girl - Marin Ireland

More Legit

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “When I read a script, it processes in my head like a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content