Urban Garden Performing Arts urbangardenpa.org
7 W. Hargett St, Raleigh
through Aug. 16

About this time last summer, we marveled at the impact one actor, one playwright, one director and one visual designer could achieve in Urban Garden’s Vogue Men’s Fashions. In that exploit, actor John Jimerson riveted audiences as a disturbed man cornered by the ghosts of his life in the upstairs storage room of a former men’s clothing store in Raleigh.

A factor giving that production its verifiable edge: Jimerson’s character, also named John, believed that we in the audience actually were his ghosts. Thus he directed his wordsand occasionally vitriolstraight at us.

One year later, Urban Garden revisits the character in its final production before co-founders PJ Maske and Bruce Benedict move to Ohio. In VOGUE MEN’S FASHIONS: THE WINDOW, we catch up with John in an even tighter space: the office of downtown architect Andrew Osterlund.

He’s made some progress; John knows that the people in his audience are real now. But as the work progresses, he’s still in pursuit of a ritual that will let him give form to and live with his past.

Under Maske’s direction, the discomfort of Jimerson’s character is clear at point blank range. Credit Jimerson that it’s a torture of sorts to remain that near to him.

But interventions by Maske and playwright Richard Butner, as poorly defined characters in John’s world, repeatedly sidetrack the unfolding drama. The windows of the storefront provide even more distractions as trucks, pedestrians and Raleigh’s Trolley Bar wend their ways past.

The ritual John ultimately initiates ends more successfully, and more generously, than we might imagine. But the parade of diversions in this dysfunctional space compromises the power this work has.

This article appeared in print with the headline “Arrivals and departures”