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Theater Review: Shake Goes Back to 9/11

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Hiwa Bourne and Alina Phelan in Shake at the Theatre of Note.
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You know the old joke about what happens when you play a country music song backwards? The singer gets a job, he sobers up, his girl falls in love with him. That's also pretty much the story of Shake, a play by Joshua Fardon that just opened its world premiere run at Hollywood's Theatre of NOTE. Like Harold Pinter's Betrayal (and the Seinfeld episode of the same name), Shake starts at the end of its chronological story and moves backward in time, scene by scene, until it finally arrives at the point where the events of the play begin to unfold.

The first of Shake's twelve scenes takes place in August 2002, when a very jittery Bill (Joe Egender), recently fired from his job, meets up with his ex-girlfriend Peggy (Alina Phelan) by the hedges in New York's Central Park where she has lived since getting evicted from her apartment. Their friend Matt (Troy Blendell) has been missing for over a month, his life having fallen apart after his wife, Robin, disappeared in the attack on the World Trade Center. By the time the play ends--almost two years earlier--on September 10, 2001, these four characters are expensively dressed, tossing bons mots back and forth over 18-year-old Laphroiag in Matt and Robin's well-appointed Manhattan high-rise. As the play progresses back in time month by month, Fardon neatly creates an odd kind of suspense, not about what's going to happen next in the characters' world, but about how the revelation of what's already happened might jolt our understanding of all we've witnessed so far.