Look elsewhere if you want a detailed analysis of the similarities and differences between Will Eno’s Gnit and various versions of Peer Gynt. In fact, you can look to the two academic guys who left the two theater ahead of me in a peer snit, claimed the play was “insulting to Ibsen.”
Look here, though, for my praise of a play that manages to produce anger, big laughs, pity and self-reflection, sometimes at the same time. And all of that in an impeccably cast production where silences are as funny as the best punch lines, big set pieces are delightfully underused, and one outstanding actor unforgettably play everyone in town.
Like his peer in Peer Gynt, Gnit, the most anti- of anti-heroes, sets out in search of his authentic self. Imagine the early, self-awareness-free Steve Martin persona as Pippin, but without a single lesson learned, and you have some idea of the arc-lessness of his journey. Gnit’s misadventures—in his own backyard and around the world—add up to a lifetime of self-deception and the burden falls on Eno and director Les Waters to keep this life-on-a-treadmill illusion of motion fun and interesting. And to give it the needed pay-off that keeps Gnit from feeling like a series of comedic sketches. Justified praise for the versatile cast (most notably Kate Eastwood Norris” and Danny Wolohan in multiple roles) should be partnered with praise for costume designer Connie Furr-Soloman who helped keep them sharply, playfully distinct.
As I rule, I’ll take big, audacious plays over smaller, safer ones—even if ambition sometimes leads to missteps. But a too-long first act and a few awkward transitions don’t significantly diminish Gnit’s enormous theatrical pleasures.
Through April 7
By Will Eno. Directed by Les Waters. Scenic Designer: Antje Ellermann. Costume Designer: Connie Furr-Soloman. Lighting Designer: Matt Frey. Sound Designer: Bray Poor. Stage Manager: Paul Mills Holmes. Assistant Stage Manager: Lizzy Lee. Dramaturg: Amy Wegener. Casting: Stephanie Klapper. Cast: Linda Kimbrough as Mother, Dan Waller as Peter, Kris Kling at Stranger 1, Kate Eastwood Norris as Stranger 2, Danny Wolohan as Town, Hannah Bos as Solvay.