Duck by Tom Block @ IRT Theater, NYC

Review cover
by Susan Hall
Berkshire Fine Arts/October 22, 2019

Duck is darkly funny and often disturbing.  Directed with a perfect sense of pacing by Katrin Hilbe, we see a modern version of our brother's keeper.  One brother William or Duck, an ex-CIA agent,  has approved his father's choice of the right-to-die, even though the man has dementia.  The other brother, also ex-CIA, would not sign, and now lives on a park bench on which William sits. 

When we first meet him, William has lost his ability to speak. He can only quack.  

Tom Block has created a brilliant selection of characters to bring us into the core feelings of angst, anxiety and betrayal that now accompany us daily as we watch the values of our country unravel before us. 

The cast is uniformly excellent.  Michael Sean Cirelli as Duck, moves convincingly between the articulate CIA operative and a deeply moving human who has lost his voice. He performd work chores he never imagined himself capable of.  Tom Paolino is his brother Crumb who has ended up homeless and claims a park bench as his own.

In a subtle and touching insert about end of life choices for the men's father, Crumb does not vote for pulling the plug.  Duck does.  The action moves between real world and that of the imagination. 

In many roles Kellye Rowland is a gentle, insistent presence.  Particularly as a social worker who has just lost her finance and joins Duck on the bench, she has just the right touch of the therapist's compassion mixed with her own clear needs for confirmation and and companionship. 

The playwright is also a visual artist who drew on the engaging panels which decorate the set.  A man electrified with spiked hair shooting out every which way, and hands from which the fingernails have been removed, keep us centered on the very real issues which dog our lives. We may not have ordered torture, we may not have delivered it, but we are complicitous in America today. 

Sounds funny?  Probably not. But the combination of absurdity, reality and a broad take on character make this drama darkly touching.