Reviews · Theatre Reviews

Theatre Review: The Bench Makes You Acknowledge The Homeless

Synopsis: Based on true stories, The Bench, set in urban decay and rubble, explores the emotional heartbreak of five homeless characters and the catastrophic hysteria surrounding AIDs in the 1980’s. The sparse set is accented with hand-drawn imagery, from Daphne Arthur’s graphic novel adaptation of the play, and audio design is by world re-known composer and multi-instrumentalist Deep Singh. It’s a unique and fresh solo theatre piece wherein one actor plays five characters, written in dialogue form, not traditional ‘monologue black out, monologue black out’ traditional solo theatre form.

Directed by Jay O. Sanders, The Bench is a 65 minute play that hones in on the tragedy of homelessness. Written and performed by Robert Galinsky, you are taken into the lives of a few homeless men treated like they are “unliving”. It is tragic, comedic, and a good-watch to those looking for Off-Broadway plays with universal caliber.

Galinsky is a tour-de-force. In 65 minutes he makes you wonder what are the tragedies that each homeless person carries. He transforms in voice, physique, and message to prove that every heart is still beating even when it is broken. You are mesmerized by how you truly feel you have met a few men through one: Galinsky. He transports you to the hysteria of the 1980’s AIDS epidemic, and how even the homeless turned on each other and themselves in fear. He shakes, grumbles, and seethes his emotions as if he truly were a man on the street with no home in spirit and location.

We, as persons, are so eager to ignore the homeless because they are the living embodiment of our greatest fears. They have no material possessions, few spiritual acknowledgments, and are psychologically unsatisfied in their needs. Galinsky displays this by making each character claw for whatever significance they can find within themselves and each other. From discussing better soup kitchens to analyzing how to bum a cigarette, their pleasure are few, but the same can be said for their problems. When you are treated like the homeless, as nothing, you cannot say you have problems because you are one giant, societal issue.

Imagine being a social ill? Your community degraded to social undesirables? While many say it is not hard to picture, Galinksy is a vision. I walked away from The Bench feeling like I did not want to look away at the homeless anymore as we all, usually, do. I did not want to clutch my purse or pretend I have no money. As Galinksy shows, it is not about help or whether our small aid is useful; it is about compassion. For 65 minutes, homeless people are acknowledged, and though they are flawed, even duplicitous in nature, they are nothing but human. Their imperfections do not merit their poor treatment.

The East Village Playhouse is located at 340 East 6th Street

Original Graphic Images by Daphne Arthur; Audio Design by Deep Singh

January 26 – April 13, 2018

Playing Fridays at 9pm. The show runs 65 minutes, no intermission

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