Sunday, March 26, 2017

162. Review: SWEAT (seen on March 25, 2017)

“Blood and Tears, Too”

If Sweat, a timely play by multi-prize-winning dramatist Lynn Nottage (Ruined), is any indication, Reading, Pennsylvania, must have been a hell of a noisy, angry town between 2000 and 2008. Nearly everyone in this significant but unavoidably depressing play about depressed people during a Depression-like job-loss period raises their voice at the slightest provocation; in Kate Whoriskey’s aggressive, whiskey and beer-soaked production (now on Broadway after last fall’s successful premiere at the Public Theatre), each new encounter seems ripe for fireworks.

Johanna Day, Alison Wright, Michelle Williams. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Sweat is essentially a workplace drama, like so many others of recent years, except that, instead of the action taking place in a factory break room, a teacher’s lounge, a garage, or some other such onsite employee’s locale, most of it transpires in that overworked stage confessional, a barroom. This one’s a joint where the workers at the local steel tubing factory, hang out, and where, judging by the rarity with which money soils the counter, everyone’s got a tab. As costumed in working-class grunge by Jennifer Moeller, the characters look just as they might in real life. 
Will Pullen, Khris Davis. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Thanks to John Lee Beatty’s revolving set, supplemented by the vivid video projections of Jeff Sugg and the fine lighting of Peter Kaczorowski, we also watch scenes in a parole office, outside the bar, in apartments, and so on. For the most part, though, we’re in a dingy, working-class dive presided over by Stan (James Colby), the stalwart, fatherly barkeep, and his ambitious, low-paid, Columbian-American busboy, Oscar (Carlo Albán).
Khris Davis, Lance Coadie Williams. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The place the locals--who tend toward the formulaic--work for is Olstead’s, which has been around so long even the forebears of these folks earned a decent living there, with substantial benefits. The gimpy Stan himself worked at Olstead’s until an accident sent him off the line, while Oscar hopes to get a job there as a “temp.” To the NAFTA-hating eyes of Stan’s customers, though, Olstead’s will soon represent the death of their American dream. Given what happens in the play, it's impossible not to think of these hard working, hard drinking people as future Trump supporters. 

The one person with no direct factory connection is Evan (Lance Coadie Williams), a parole officer seen in the first scene and toward the end checking on the behavior of two recently released young felons, the volatile Jason (Will Pullen), his face covered with white supremacist tattoos, and the steadier Chris (Khris Davis), an African-American who’s moved from being Jason’s best buddy to the other end of the friendship spectrum. Both were involved in an act of violence whose horror the play’s flashback structure is designed ultimately to reveal.  
Michelle Williams, John Earl Jelks. Photo: Joan Marcus.
In addition to Chris and Jason, the workers are Chris’s parents, Cynthia (Michelle Wilson), and her estranged, laid-off, junkie husband, Brucie (John Earl Jelks); Tracey (Johanna Day), Chris’s high-strung mom, the third generation of her family employed by Olstead’s; and the bibulous Jessie (Alison Wright), whose youthful dream of a hippie trek to “Istanbul, Tehran, Kandahar, Kabul, Peshawar, Lahore, Kathmandu,” as she recites it, will forever be deferred.
Johanna Day, Carlo Alban. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Over the course of 10 months in 2000 (the dates are projected on the set) we observe these people’s interactions as they learn of threats to their livelihood because of cutbacks at Olstead’s, and of their fear and anger as they refuse to accept management’s demeaning offers.
Alison Wright, Will Pullen, Michelle Williams. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The pressures under which these slaves to a dying manufacturing economy are forced to survive—accented by TV clips of political news of the Bush years (the Wall Street bailout included)—gradually increase their mutual tensions. Jason and Chris strike sparks over their different dreams for the future. The women struggle to retain their friendship when Cynthia wins out over Tracey for a supervisory position that—just as in Off-Broadway’s recent Dolphins and Sharks—creates furious disagreements when her job puts her in conflict with her fellow workers. Worst of all is when people’s frustrations force them to use racial and ethnic fears as a catalyst for hatred.
Carlo Alban, John Earl Jelks, James Colby, Johanna Day, Michelle Williams, Alison Wright. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Sweat takes us into dark waters, showing not only the financial impact on these people of losing their livelihoods but the consequent emotional and psychological toll affecting society as a whole. There are moments of humor, of course, but nothing can assuage the churning of your stomach when you contemplate the hardships of the unemployed, especially if you know someone experiencing such a plight.

Unlike so many of her contemporaries, Nottage doesn’t opt for magic realism or surrealistic devices to make her points; Sweat is naturalistic drama, its dialogue prosaic and profane. But, generally honest as is her depiction of this tragic situation, it’s more the dramatization of a condition than of an action.
Michelle Williams, Johanna Day. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Keeping the ball in the air until the denouement strains the bounds of credulity; the nearly two-and-a-half-hour play becomes a sequence of disputes forcing us to accept the barroom as such a crucible of overheated temperament it’s amazing anyone would ever want to go there twice. The emotions are so raw, in fact, it’s easy to see Sweat transformed into a social protest musical along the lines of The Cradle Will Rock.

Fortunately, all the performances are strong (some a bit overly so), but hats are off especially to Colby as the play’s steadiest anchor in a raging storm; to Albán as the sacrificial victim; to Davis as a man who finds hope amid despair; and to Wilson as a woman torn between the obligations to her job and her friends.

Sweat dramatizes a real national tragedy with careful attention to detail but it breaks no new ground, tells us nothing we didn’t already know, and suggests no way out. As I said before, it may be timely but it's also pretty depressing.


Studio 54
254 W. 54th St., NYC
Open run

Friday, March 24, 2017

161. Review: HOW TO TRANSCEND A HAPPY MARRIAGE (seen March 23, 2017)

“Hump the Hosts”

The first thing you notice when entering the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre to see two-time Pulitzer finalist Sarah Ruhl’s How to Transcend a Happy Marriage is a full-sized animal carcass (a goat? a deer?), skinned and ready to be butchered. It hangs from a rope over David Zinn’s fashionable living room set—backed by a cyclorama covered with giant floral images. As the play is about to start, a young woman enters, unhooks the carcass, tosses it over her shoulder, and walks off.
Omar Metwally, Marisa Tomei, Lena Hall, Austin Smith, David McElwee. Photo: Kyle Forman.
Ruhl’s multipronged discussion comedy, crisply directed by Rebecca Taichman, is preachy, uneven, and provocative; it’s also confusing, occasionally funny, intermittently engrossing, and intellectually ambitious, covering things like, among others, polyamory, meat-eating, the veneer of civilization covering man’s inner savage, the parent-child dynamic regarding their mutual sexuality, and marital happiness in general. Intimations of Edward Albee lurk here and there.

One of its two highly educated, fortyish couples seeking how to transcend their happy marriage is Georgia (Marisa Tomei), a.k.a. George, and Paul (Omar Metwally). She’s a teacher of Latin; he’s an ex-architect who writes about architectural theory because he became tired of doing lucrative bathroom renovations (an architect? Bathroom renovations?). The other is Jane (Robin Weigert), a litigator, and Michael (Brian Hutchison), a geometry-loving musician who makes his living writing advertising jingles.

During a casual get-together at Jane and Michael’s in suburban New Jersey, Jane informs the others of a beautiful and unusual temp at her office named Pip (Lena Hall), who’s into polyamory and eating only meat she’s killed herself; it’s called “ethical slaughtering,” and it’s she who earlier hauled off the goat. Pip sounds so interesting and, to the men, arousing, that she and the two bisexual guys in their “thrupple”—a sweetly androgynous Harvard alum, Freddie (David McElwee), and a pompously brainy, foreign-accented geometrician, David (Austin Smith)—“Dahveed” to you—are invited over to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Given Michael and Brian’s conveniently shared interests, expect lots of talk about squares and triangles.

The parties assemble on New Year’s Eve, with Paul bringing take-out Peking duck because, having hoped to satisfy Pip’s proclivities for freshly slaughtered/sacrificed meat, his plan to slaughter a duck and cook it himself went wrong. Before long, hash brownies do their job and a (fully clothed), seven-person saturnalia is underway. Or so we’re led to believe. We’ll have to wait to discover what Michael and Jane’s 16-year-old, Jenna (Naian Gonzàlez Norvind), has to say.
Marisa Tomei, Lena Hall. Photo: Kyle Froman.
Most of Act Two, however, drops the drawing room comedy business and takes us into a snowy forest for a bizarre, bow-and-arrow deer hunting scene between Pip and George that leads to their being thrown in jail for a mishap you’ll find either tragic, funny, or ridiculous. Realism devolves into magic realism, with Pip transforming into an egg-laying dove (the trained one playing the part should complain over its lack of a credit), along with other surprises that move the play into a new direction, including George increasingly serving as fourth wall-breaking Our Town-like narrator. And it might be added having a bird lay eggs during the action is too tempting an invitation for unfriendly critics.
Marisa Tomei, Omar Metwally, Robin Weigert, Brian Hutchison. Photo: Kyle Forman. 
The acting is slickly professional, and everyone looks just right in Susan Hilferty’s costumes, but no one manages to transcend Ruhl’s contrivances to create a truly believable human being. Hall makes as much of her flamboyant role as could anyone, especially when she launches into an erotically charged karaoke version of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” as you’ve never heard it before.  Tomei, looking half her age, has a natural charisma that never fades; she doesn’t quite overcome the artificialities of the chitchat required in the early scenes but gradually comes into her own, especially in the final moments when she delivers a terrific epilogue.
Marisa Tomei. Photo: Kyle Forman.
It’s hard to say whether the play’s married couples transcend their happy marriages but it’s easy to say that watching Sarah Ruhl’s play is itself not a transcendent experience.


Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre/Lincoln Center
150 W. 65th St., NYC
Through May 7

160. Review: ANGRY YOUNG MAN (seen March 23, 2017)

"Scrambled Farce"

How long does it take for a farce to lay an egg? Well, in the case of Angry Young Man, the farcical fowl now nesting at Urban Stages, it’s a mercifully short hour and 15 minutes. Not, however, that everyone seeing this British import by Ben Woolf will have their feathers equally ruffled. Written ten years ago, it was a popular offering at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and even won a prize at Australia’s Adelaide Festival. It deals, after all, with the hot-button issue of immigration, is conceptually imaginative and cleverly staged, and enjoys the services of four personable young actors. 
Front: Christopher Daftsios, Rami Margron; rear: Max Samuel, Nazli Sarpkaya. Photo: David Rodgers. 
None of these things, though, is a strong enough medicine to cure the greatest ailment afflicting any farce: it’s not very funny. Seriously. Or, given the hilarity its original production appears to have inspired, maybe it's this particular production that isn't very funny. Or maybe I'm just too hard a nut to crack. 

Of course, humor is an individual matter, and there was indeed laughter during the performance I attended. But, by and large, it seemed--except for a few high spots where even my stoneface yielded-- more of the respectful tittering variety than the kind of continuously robust guffaws one expects from broad, slapstick comedy. Perhaps it's a cultural thing about the ability of this kind of British humor making it successfully across the pond, although it seems to work in other contexts. Whatever it is, when actors push as urgently for yocks as they do here I feel an attack of comic salmonella coming on.
Front: Christopher Daftsios, Max Samuel, Rami Margron; rear: Nazli Sarpkaya. Photo: Ben Rodgers.
Angry Young Man is the story of Yusuf, a Middle Eastern (native country undisclosed) surgeon with barely any English (apart from when he narrates the action) who comes to London to interview for a hospital job. After a botched surgery in his homeland, he's no longer welcome there. He quickly finds himself the victim of everything bad that could happen to an uninformed newcomer. Perhaps you remember those hapless tourists played by Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in The Out-of-Towners (1970; remade in 1999 with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn).

While ostensibly hoping to mock the racist obstacles even a doctor like Yusuf (especially one so naïvely stupid and self-involved) might encounter in supposedly liberal England, the play’s speeding bullet of a plot simply piles one impossible mishap and misadventure on the other: Yusuf gets ripped off by his airport taxi driver, is befriended by a radical in a red-starred Mao cap, kills a skinhead in a sleazy bar, flirts with his buddy’s girlfriend, gets involved with a shady immigrant teen who's on the verge of being deported, is threatened by skinhead thugs, and so on, all of it silly, exaggerated, juvenile, and frantically searching for your funny bone.
Christopher Daftsios, Nazli Sarpkaya, Rami Margron, Max Samuel. Photo: Ben Rodgers.
No bones about it, Angry Young Man wants to make you laugh at its savaging of the anti-immigrant citizenry. Its theatrical premise has each of its actors (two men and two women replacing what was an all-male London cast) dressed by costumer Yuka Silvera in exactly the same way: a slightly oversized, double-breasted suit, shirt and tie, and tan, leather shoes. Each plays the heavily-accented Yusuf, sometimes solely, sometimes in unison with one or more others, while also portraying all the other characters, making adjustments to clarify their identity at any moment. This tag-team concept completely overshadows any message the play may have.

Swishy, feminine movements, perhaps with one’s top shirt buttons opened, represent a woman, while a hat or kerchief might be enough for someone else. Over-the-top mugging is pervasive, as is a plethora of funny faces. There are pratfalls, fake violence (Dan Renkin is the fight director), and other clownish maneuvers, while an actor with a mic provides—in addition to offstage ones provided by sound designer David M. Lawson—a panoply of vocal and other sound effects.

A tall A-ladder serves multiple purposes, as do a variety of hand props, like the double-headed vise that an actor, climbing the ladder, holds against his brow to suggest he’s a mounted deer head. A flashlight can serve as a flashlight but also be used for sophomoric humor when serving as a statue’s sexual organ.
Front: Nazli Sarpkaya, Rami Margron, Christopher Daftsios; rear: Max Samuel. Photo: Ben Rodgers.
The set itself (credited to Frank J. Oliva) is a bare space, with a few random props strewn about, and with heavy curtains on the rear wall that eventually get torn down, as if accidentally, to garner a chuckle at what’s disclosed. The efficient lighting is by Sebastian Paczynski.  

Director Stephen Hamilton knows how to move people around in ingenious ways; every fast-paced moment is carefully choreographed and some bits are creatively priceless. One in particular, when Yusuf sees himself in multiple mirrors, is a brilliant standout.
Front: Christopher Daftsios, Max Samuel, Rami Margron; rear: Nazli Sarpkaya. Photo: Ben Rodgers.
The acting quartet is composed of actors from diverse backgrounds using a variety of British and other accents; Christopher Daftsios is a first-generation Greek; actress Rami Margron is of Haitian descent; Max Samuel is Jewish; and Nazli Sarpkaya is a Turkish immigrant. Not that this is particularly unusual. Aside, perhaps, from Sarpkaya, I’m sure the same diversity exists in most New York shows, which speaks to our nation’s cultural openness, now threatened by our national leaders.

Angry Young Man’s cast is lively, versatile, and technically proficient, and each has something interestingly distinctive to offer. Apart, though, for the rubber-faced Daftsios, they’re not natural clowns, at least not in the terms demanded by this very difficult genre; the material forces them to strain too hard, which only makes it more uncomfortable to watch their stuff fall flat. 

Should you get a ticket for Angry Young Man? Depends on your taste in eggs.


Urban Stages
259 W. 30th St., NYC
Through April 9

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

159. Review: THE LIGHT YEARS (seen March 22, 2017)

"It Had to Be Moonglow"

One of the most fascinating theatrical biographies I ever read was Epoch: The Life of Steele MacKaye (1927), by MacKaye’s son, Percy. The elder MacKaye (1842-1894), although little known today, was a mind-bogglingly creative, all-around genius, a successful playwright, actor, teacher, director, inventor, and innovative dreamer.
Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld. Photo:Joan Marcus.
MacKaye’s final, tragically unfulfilled dream for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893—a 12,000-seat theatre called the “Spectatorium” for viewing a recreation of Columbus’s discovery of America—is the daunting subject of a new play, The Light Years, until it isn’t. Written by Hannah Box and Paul Thureen over a period of seven years, and developed and directed by Oliver Butler for the adventurous group called The Debate Society, it’s getting an impressively elaborate Off-Broadway production at Playwrights Horizons. Nonetheless, The Light Years is itself an example of unfulfilled promise. 
Graydon Peter Yosowitz, Aya Cash. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The hour and 45-minute, intermission-free play covers forty years between the 1893 World’s Fair, when MacKaye was building his gigantic theatre on the shore of Lake Michigan, and Chicago’s second one, in 1933. Tying the two together is the fictional story of an electrician named Hillary (Erik Lochtefeld), who, with another electrician, a Chinese man called Hong Sling (Brian Lee Huynh), seeks across the years to finish the complex lighting for a large globe—called a “mooncart”—representing the moon to be used in MacKaye’s extravaganza. No longer having a practical purpose, their collaboration appears to have no other goal than the men’s own need to finish something they’ve started. 
Bran Lee Huynh, Erik Lochtefeld. Photo: Joan Marcus.
The principal action is set within a false proscenium whose upstage side is turned toward the audience, where dozens of bulbs—their light intended to be seen on the opposite side—flash on and off as needed. (Some scenes are also played in the auditorium.) At first we see a rather elaborate arrangement of machinery and movable units suggesting the dusty workshop where Hillary and Hong do their work, with sparks flying and gadgets exploding when things go wrong: kudos to lighting designer Russell H. Champa and sound designer Lee Kinney. Hillary, however, draws support from his wealthy, high-spirited, bicycle-riding wife, Adeline (Aya Cash), whose curiosity provides the shock of her life. 
Aya Cash, Rocco Sisto, Erik Lochtefeld. Photo: Joan Marcus.
We then watch the stage transform (Laura Jellinek is the designer) into a house that is first Hillary and Adeline’s, then Hong’s, where he rapidly grows old before renting it in 1933 to the family of a struggling jingle writer/pianist named Lou (Ken Barnett), his patiently enduring wife, Ruth (Cash), and their wide-eyed kid, Charlie (Graydon Peter Yosowitz).This allows for a nice contrast between the clothing, manners, and language of the 1890s and the Depression-era, but little else; the fine period costumes are by Michael Krass. Present upstage throughout is the mooncart, in which Charlie likes to sleep.
Aya Cash, Ken Barnett, Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo: Joan Marcus.
A bucket hanging outside the window is the means by which Lou and Ruth pay their rent to whoever’s living in the attic, of which we get to see only the bottom few feet before the entire place is exposed, with Hillary there. He and Hong, you see, have been continually working to make the moon work, never giving up on their dream over four decades, while downstairs, the at-first optimistic Lou, unable to sell any of his jingles (music by Daniel Kluger) or get a “club” gig, grows depressed; the faithful Ruth, selling pancakes at the exposition, becomes the family breadwinner. (Barnett, by the way, plays a mean piano, including a hot version of “Honeysuckle Rose.”) 
Brian Lee Huynh, Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo: Joan Marcus.
These time-spanning events are accompanied by loads of first-person historical narrative, presented by MacKaye (Rocco Sisto) himself, and by a vertical screen at stage right (the Silent Unfolding Announcer) on which tidbits of information, including the relevant years, scroll by. Most of the acting has a larger-than-life, self-consciously theatrical quality, making the characters seem more like cardboard creations than flesh-and-blood people. Most distressingly, Sisto, playing MacKaye as a grand impresario, turns him into a hammy, old-fashioned Shakespearean cum P.T. Barnum; this sometimes gives him a buffoonish air that robs him of his historical significance. 
Aya Cash, Ken Barnett. Photo: Joan Marc
I can’t say why The Debate Society chose to tell the story of MacKaye’s Spectatorium, which failed because of an 1893 financial panic, through the domestic travails of Hong, Hillary, and the jingle writer’s family. The concept seems forced in order to make a point about following one’s dream, and to offer a theatrical image of differences in American society across the years. MacKaye’s tale alone, and what he went through before having to scale back his goals, would have made a far more interesting play about American aspiration and technological progress, especially if some creative means had been found to represent what he was after. Here we get some light but very little illumination. 
Aya Cash, Ken Barnett, Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo: Joan Marcus.
When the final scene arrives and Hillary and Hong achieve their own dream, you might appreciate how pretty it is but also wonder—given the technical means available in 1933 (just look at any movie spectacle of the time)—what’s so special about it. Or what it has to do with that mooncart still sitting unlit in the room downstairs when the lights go down.


Playwrights Horizons
416 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through April 2

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

158. Review: SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON (see March 21, 2017)

“You Can’t Go Home Again”

Rachel Bonds calls her melancholic, structurally wandering Sundown, Yellow Moon, “a nighttime play with songs”; indeed, this coproduction of Ars Nova and WP Theater takes place largely at night and it does have songs, less than a handful, two of them coming in the final moments. (They’re pleasant but unexceptional guitar-strumming, country numbers by the Bengsons, an indie-folk team, with additional lyrics by Bonds.) The play’s title is from a lyric in Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello,” on his Blood on the Track album, referred to in the script.
Lilli Cooper, Peter Friedman. Photo: Ben Arons.
Otherwise, this is a quiet, drearily low-key, fitfully amusing, dramatically slender, hour-and-a-half slog through a family’s attempts to heal its psychic wounds. The family is that of a middle-aged, divorcé named Tom (Peter Friedman), a private school teacher, and his grown, twin daughters, Joey/Josephine (Eboni Booth) and Ray/Rayleen (Lilli Cooper). Its setting is Tom’s cabin in a rural Tennessee college town replete with musicians, poets, and intellectuals but, apparently, devoid of rednecks. 

Peter Friedman. Photo: Ben Arons.
Tom’s been suspended after a violent argument with his new headmaster, during which he accidentally slugged the guy’s wife while the students looked on. Joey and Ray have come home from their respective urban residences to help dad get through his misery. He’s also being assisted by a gentle young man with his own problems; this is Carver (JD Taylor), a counselor/therapist whose approval will be necessary before Tom can return to work. There are three other characters: a married couple, Jean (Anne L. Nathan) and Bobby (Michael Pemberton), Tom’s guitar-playing friends who jam with him, and Ted (Greg Keller), a poet.
Peter Friedman, Lilli Cooper. Photo: Ben Arons.
Although Tom is deep down in the dumps, it seems at first he’s showing symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Carver’s encouraged, for instance, that Tom was able to go to the Piggly Wiggly on his own, even though, as Ray discovers (a bit late, it seems), he bought nothing of substance and the fridge is practically empty. Joey, a vegan, has received a Fulbright to study in Germany for two years (her subject isn’t clear) but has trepidations about going. Ray’s a lesbian musician who’s stopped writing songs after breaking up with the woman she works for, the head of an arts funding organization. 
Eboni Booth, Greg Keller. Photo: Ben Arons.
Carver was involved as a boy in a scandalous relationship with a priest, which is about all we’re told of it; he once belonged to a local singing group but dropped out and stopped making music while the others all became famous. Ted—a married college teacher Joey meets and falls for at the local reservoir, where she goes swimming—blames his writer’s block on his novelist wife’s success.
Anne L. Nathan, Lilli Cooper, Michael Pemberton, Peter Friedman, Eboni Booth. Photo: Ben Arons.
It’s nice to see a play in which everyone, despite their own problems, is concerned about everyone else, but to make such a play interesting the stakes have to be higher. In Sundown no specific problem seems any more urgent than any other, and when it’s all over the persons most likely not to be concerned about anyone’s problems are the members of the audience. The otherwise fine ensemble can’t do more than give a superficially believable impression of these thinly drawn characters, and the usually reliable Anne Kaufmann’s lethargic direction only bogs things down more.
JD Taylor, Lilli Cooper. Photo: Ben Arons.
Things transpire on Lauren Helpern clunky, all-purpose unit set, the kind that tries to be simultaneously indoors and out. It’s a wall-less platform for the interior of Tom’s woodsy cabin surrounded by slender, unpainted boards that look both like tree cutouts (suggested by leaf-like designs overhead) and the vertical studs holding up the house; a jumbled assortment of step units at the front serve as steps and the rocky surfaces near the reservoir. Isabella Byrd and Matt Frey’s lighting does its best to create properly somber and romantic moods, with fine supplementation by Leah Gelpe's Chekhovian sound design reminding us of midsummer nature's presence.
Eboni Booth, Lilli Cooper, Peter Friedman. Photo: Ben Arons.
Sundown, Yellow Moon is one of those dully atmospheric plays about sad and lonely people where the actors speak in subdued, artificially naturalistic, voices, filled with sorrowful silences, and the conversation you have with your friend as you leave is livelier than anything you’ve heard on stage; where people walk through a furnished house to go swimming in a reservoir that appears to be right beneath an upstage doorway; where racially diverse actors are cast as the offspring of a white father in a Southern rural community, with not a hint explaining the relationship; where it’s a swelteringly humid summer but no one sweats and none of the men wear shorts; where a young woman accidentally meets a poet she heard read a poem perhaps 10 years earlier, when she was 17, and not only remembers him but the poem as well (her sister has a too-similar experience when she recalls first hearing Carver’s group as a child); where no one scene seems much more important than any other; where the dreamily beautiful girl seen in certain ads never materializes in the play itself; where a family songfest covers the lack of a satisfying denouement; where . . . well, I've already belabored the point.


Sundown, Yellow Moon
McGinn/Cazale Theatre
2163 Broadway, NYC
Through April 1