ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
Written by Farragut North and House of Cards writer Beau Willimon, the play revolves around two interactions. The first, between marketing hotshot Jack (Craig Wesley Divino) and derivatives whiz Mike (Lee Dolson) in the investment bank office they share, has a rather typical Odd Couple feel, as the responsible, punctual and uptight Mike is challenged and often frustrated by the laid back, smart and often hungover Jack. The second interaction between Mike's wife Julie (Molly Thomas) and Jack's sister Denise (Shannon Marie Sullivan) at a nearby restaurant three weeks later, sets up a similar contrast between the sheltered and privileged Julie and the free spirited, independent Denise.
Almost all of the show's ninety minute running time is dedicated to these two scenes. At least on its face there's a lot to work with, especially given the convincing performances turned in by all four actors and director Aaron Rossini's work to keep the tension building and audience engaged.
But it is work to keep that audience engaged, because the play isn't doing much of it on its own. The dramatic impact of the major (and obvious) twist is fairly muted, largely because the relationships are far too easily pigeonholed and the characters forced. The conversations in each scene swing from friendly to awkward to hostile and back again more often (and more predictably) than a Lifetime movie. And the dialogue, especially between Mike and Jack, tries much too hard to channel David Mamet, with f-bombs and other crude language and concepts flying back and forth-completely unnecessarily.
We're obviously supposed to find Mike's responsible uptightness both admirable and irritating, Jack's chaotic and selfish genius both engaging and offputting . . .and the fact we're obviously supposed to feel these things leaves us with very little to figure out about anyone on stage, whose internal motives are generally obvious and unchanging.
The scenes themselves are extremely talky, each environment a fairly static backdrop for two stereotypes to chat with each other. Even as an intellectual exercise this is problematic; as a theatrical experience it simply falls short.
All of this is a shame, because there are flashes of human insight and potential growth within the play, and both actors and director do what they can with the script. But ultimately Breathing Time is trying much too hard to be edgy and clever with its characters, and the sense that one is getting railroaded through their development is both palpable and problematic. Fault Line would have been better off letting the audience do a bit of the discovery for itself.