Post image for Off-Broadway Review: THE FOLLOWING EVENING (PAC NYC)

by Paola Bellu on February 4, 2024

in Theater-New York


New York City, 1947: Julian Beck and Judith Molina found The Living Theatre, the oldest experimental group in the United States, giving life, with other artists, to Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater. 16 years later, director Joseph Chaikin leaves the group to co-found The Open Theater, where Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet meet. “I meet Joe. I see his new show in a storefront on 4th Street. The show changes me,” a whimsical Paul explains to us how it all started.

I mention the history of avant-garde theatre because The Following Evening — which opened Feb. 1 at PAC NYC — is a chronology of a love story and of an artistic bond between two passionate, skilled artists who played a crucial role in the movement. Talking Band, Maddow and Zimet’s theatre company, turns 50 this year, and this show is the perfect synthesis of their union.

The play takes place in their loft on Mercer Street, the top floor of an old garment factory. The set, designed by Jian Jung, respects the company’s minimalist aesthetic but contains all the necessary elements to bring it to life. “Our first morning in the loft, we wake up to a rat lying dead, middle of the mattress,” Paul lets us know in the Prologue, to make sure we understand how decrepit that part of Soho and Greenwich Village was in the mid-70s, certainly not the glamorous place it is today.

We get to the first part of the show and they still live there, 50 years later. “Here we are. Again again again again, starting again, starting again. You work so hard to make it great. And was it great? Who knows,” Ellen says, wondering of what’s next. They have already established their love — feet dangling from the fire-escape, stylized embraces, graceful turns, the birth of their daughter — now it’s time to tell us about their art through different details, a strange person among the public, something left in the box-office, a movement rehearsal, to the reason or no-reason to write a play. We are completely taken, they are both profound, creative actors able to create space and time through the power of belief.

Part II. Enter Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, better known as 600 Highwaymen, who wrote and directed the play. They are also well-known experimental theater-makers, married, one generation apart from Maddow and Zimet, and the show is their idea. At the beginning, we see a rehearsal of a choreography from the play, a kind of movement chorus, and from their words we understand how it all came together, we are introduced to their closeness.

Although both couples acknowledge the ephemeral nature of theatre and the hardship that comes with it, Browde and Silverstone seem more skeptical, almost frustrated at this point, while Maddow and Zimet manage to keep that original dream alive and kicking. Together, they are a flawless ensemble, as if they worked together for years. The Following Evening is definitely a must-see.

photos by Maria Baranova
cover photo by Matthew Murphy

The Following Evening
created by 600 Highwaymen for Talking Band
produced with ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann & Sami Pyne
Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC), 251 Fulton Street
ends on February 18, 2024
for tickets, visit PAC/NYC

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