Susie Sokol plays Pedro Romero in "The Select (The Sun Also Rises.)"
(Photo by Rob Strong)
There is much good to be said about the very fine Elevator Repair Service production, “The Select (The Sun Also Rises),” which has been extended through Oct. 23. One of the highlights of this imaginatively staged show is the trick of breathing life into the bullfight scene that Ernest Hemingway described in his 1925 novel about young expats living in Europe after World War I.
For a couple of moments, Susie Sokol, who plays Pedro Romero, transcends the box of the theater and takes us into the arena for a glimpse of man — or in this case woman — versus bull. Her casting as the bull fighter is one of the nuances that helps to crack open the play excerpted from Hemingway's novel. That and a clever sound design (by Matt Tierney and Ben Williams) and witty anachronisms, which are consistently funny.
But the deeper pleasure is found in watching the dynamics between the play's characters unfold.
Hemingway’s writing style has long been celebrated. But by the mid-'70s, he was increasingly judged to be, well, macho. As college course offerings burst with diverse choices and feminist values were given more prominence, American literature was being redefined. So to spend an evening listening in on Hemingway’s intimates as they drink and talk was well worth the price of admission — at least for this English major.
Our guide into this world is Jake Barnes, a writer and journalist played by the facile and winning Mike Iverson. He and every man who shows up in the play are smitten with the modern, witty and very attractive Lady Brett Ashley. Ashley, who is wonderfully played by Lucy Taylor, is the center piece of the story. She calls the shots, she captures the attention, she drives the action and the men to distraction.
Yes, there is lots of drinking — lots of it — and fishing and swaggering shoptalk. But more than anything, each of the men who enters the frame just want some time with Brett. And their vulnerability is touching. Jake himself is impotent (a war injury), and as a result he is given the trusted role of confidante for this femme fatale.
In the end, it’s an evening of watching a woman masterfully swing the red cape to tease the bulls, bring on the lunge and move on to the next conquest. All in all, an excellent night of some hard drinking at the bars with some very entertaining and oddly familiar people. And, you don’t have to wake up with a hangover.
“The Select (The Sun Also Rises),” directed by John Collins, runs at the New York Theatre Workshop through Oct. 23. Watch a clip from the play below.
Karen Frillmann, WNYC's Enterprise Editor, works on the original and agenda setting stories that emerge from the microphones and recorders of WNYC’s reporting staff. She got her start in broadcast journalism at WNYC when it was still New York City’s Municipal Broadcasting System.
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