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Late Fragment

In Francine Volpe's "Late Fragment," the personal and public aftermath of a man's brush with death as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center makes for an eerily chilling, thought-provoking ride.

As soon as the play begins, it's clear that something is amiss. Matthew, an accountant who was on the 21st floor of one of the towers when the planes hit, and his wife, Marta, stand in the center of a living room that looks as if it were the focus of the attacks. Victoria Imperioli's scenic design features a hole in the ceiling. The room's back wall is gone and the space looks out onto the remains of a bombed-out street. Lighting designer Tony Giovannetti illuminates the environment with atmospheric precision, using a palette that moves from harsh white to sensual lavender to sickly yellow-green.

Soon a coolly distant but highly polished television reporter (Dean Harrison) and his down-to-earth cameraman (Ken Forman) arrive and try to elicit a sensational account of what happened from Matthew. He's too shell-shocked, though, and more concerned about his inability to move his head and neck. As outpourings of love arrive from around the country (Volpe's sly commentary on people's need to "help"), Matthew's physical and mental condition deteriorates (Nick Sandow makes for a winningly sympathetic mensch throughout). He begins to harass both his doctor (who threatens a restraining order) and his exceedingly oily, self-satisfied attorney (Michael Mosley), who's trying to save Matthew from bankruptcy even as he pursues Matthew's coarse, bordering on shrewish wife (played with restraint by Jenna Stern).

Matthew's world becomes increasingly surreal and his plight touchingly urgent in Michael Imperioli and Zetna Fuentes' well-modulated staging. Most important, one leaves contemplating Volpe's underlying message about how life's worth is measured.

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