Yet it’s within the midst of that scene, after 40 minutes of undifferentiated snark, that the tone turns sharply. This is partially the results of the stunning efficiency of Nidra Sous La Terre as Kristin but additionally partially as a result of Eno, seemingly having accomplished his structural work, has begun to pay extra consideration to character. Or maybe we now have lastly mastered the trick of porting our emotions from one Chris to a different as an alternative of letting them fall into the ditch between incarnations.
In any case, from right here on out “The Underlying Chris” turns into deeper and clearer and, paradoxically, extra mysterious. Replacing the cut-glass sarcasm are extra feelingful interactions about issues just like the human soul: “the part of people that moves through the world and changes but also lasts,” as Kristin describes it. The play additionally deepens as a result of loss of life, handled flippantly within the early scenes, now takes root within the characters’ lives; the naked branches of Eno’s trick construction sprout leaves.
That’s nearly actually the case in an astonishing sequence within the second half of the play, when the director Kenny Leon appears to have discovered its poetry finally. Divorced and 50-ish, Topher (Howard Overshown) is showing in an novice manufacturing of a ridiculous play. Yet regardless of the wood performing and two-dimensional timber, actual feeling arises from it — after which rather more lovely and three-dimensional timber come up, too, as we transit to a verdant park. (Arnulfo Maldonado is the set designer.) Topher is now Krista (Lizbeth Mackay), a white girl in her 60s, and we start to see how every new Chris grows richer from the previous ones, at the same time as every additionally grows feebler, heading towards the following.
By the time Chris reaches his final three embodiments — rendered with deepening pathos by Michael Countryman, Denise Burse and Charles Turner — chances are you’ll end up, as I did, on the verge of tears after which previous it. (“The far verge” is Eno’s apt phrase.) Much as in his play “Wakey, Wakey,” a couple of man in hospice, the lengthy shadow of loss of life softens cleverness into knowledge and knowledge into love. “It’s quite an honor to be born,” says a personality at a funeral. And talking to yet one more new child, Kristiana, 82, says, “A long line of creatures marched out of the sea so I could hold you right now.”
Lines like that exhibit Eno’s nice leap in “The Underlying Chris”: His construction has change into expressive, a posh means to a transferring finish. He’s additionally giving actors much more to do than twist themselves to suit a baroque format, and one of many joys of this manufacturing is the splendidly numerous forged of journeymen New York actors every given a number of massive probabilities to shine.
That, too, is an indication of the play’s expressiveness: For all its disasters, life additionally offers us a number of massive probabilities to shine. Perhaps the play’s flaws are expressive as effectively. Its wood first half could also be a part of the puzzle Eno is dramatizing: Why is it that in our youth, with chance in all places, the world appears so flat and impenetrable? Just after we get to like it an excessive amount of, after we lastly see how linked we’ve been to everybody else all alongside, we now have to begin saying goodbye.
The Underlying Chris
Tickets Through Dec. 15 on the Tony Kiser Theatre, Manhattan; 212-541-4516, 2st.com. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.