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A CurtainUp Review
A Perfect Future

When we were in Brooklyn. John gave up pot and turned to wine. He'd make jokes about my being the family socialist. A card-carrying member of the 'free love and disease crowd'. He loved that expression... It became his way of attacking me. Attacking everything I believed in . . ..But I didn't know the half of it, did I? — Natalie
A Perfect Future
Donna Bullock as Natalie and Michael T. Weiss as John
(Photo credit: Richard Termine)
As patrons leave the Cherry Lane Theater after attending a performance of A Perfect Future they are given a button saying, "You can't change the world sober " an axiom of questionable veracity. But as it applies to the four characters in David Hay's binge-besotted play, it seems quite apt. It is the amount of wine that they collectively drink over the course of one long and bumpy evening that appears to be the primary catalyst in determining their future.

In their decadent, sexually charged, cocaine-enhanced past (some time during the 1970s) John Hudson (Michael T. Weiss) and his wife Natalie (Donna Bullock) were rebellious, political activists as well as lovers. Now in 2005 they are a long time, unhappily married couple. John is a hugely successful Wall Street capitalist, and Natalie is a documentary film-maker (although she has been working on the same project about the critical situation in Rwanda for the past ten years.) They are hosting a dinner party in their Manhattan apartment (decorated to suggest their collective lack of imagination by designer Charles Corcoran) to which they have invited their 55 year-old gay, former college colleague and fellow activist Elliot Murphy (Daniel Oreskes) and Mark Colvin (Scott Drummond,) a recent college graduate employed in John's firm.

How else to make everyone comfortable than to reach for the corkscrew and open the first bottle of wine? John is a wine enthusiast, meaning that his awesomely displayed collection includes some wines that apparently cost a thousand dollars a bottle. But that doesn't mean that it will be gulped down with any more restraint or respect than the other bottles of wine that get opened and polished off during the course of the evening. Who are we to say that too much drinking can turn the conversation ugly? Just look how it energized the gathering in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

But uncomfortable quickly turns to ugly after the obligatory introductions and the opening of the first bottle of wine, "a Pinot from Oregon." John, Elliot, and Natalie join together in an assault on the unapologetically conservative, but also gay Mark. He is the first target in playwright Hay's agenda to skewer progressive ideals and challenge their moral directives. That calls for opening a bottle of "Louis Jadot, Gervey-Chambertine 1996, an essential Burgundy. " Elliot is a "practicing Marxist" who hopes to get Natalie to write a generous check in support of his mission to support the rights of a former Black Panther in court. This deserves a nice bottle of "1976 Penfolds Grange. "

When Mark finally discloses to Elliot that he is gay and has had a black lover and that he has been thinking what it would be like to kiss him, it's time to open a bottle of "Chateau Margaut." Natalie's getting sloshed doesn't deter her from making risotto with shrimp, a decision that can only be corrected by opening a bottle of "Cheval Blanc from the Dordogne. "

John, an arrogant prig who has evidently not always been the straightest shooter on the block, entraps Mark into repeating a racist joke — to his professional detriment. That calls for opening a bottle of "Dingac Plavac. " Natalie doesn't know how much more she can take of John's physical and emotional abuse, but she can manage, sort of, another glass full of "d'y' quem," that was the thousand-dollar bottle.

I honestly can't remember if it was Natalie's failed attempt to open a bottle of pills or a bottle of wine that made me realize that they picked up a clean wine glass with every bottle, some ending up broken, but not as broken as Natalie who also goes to pieces, or rather goes berserk depending on how you look at it. Will John and Natalie wake up with a hangover after switching gears for some unknown reason to a bottle of "Glenmorangie whiskey?" Will we?

The acting, under the direction of Wilson Milam, is above all impressive as well as sobering in its dedication to Hay's mostly irritatingly irrational suppositions about the reality of idealism, the guilt behind liberalism, the contradictions in racism, and the complexities of being gay. I suspect that Hay, whose play The Maddening Truth about the legendary writer Martha Gellhorn was produced by the Keen Company Off Broadway (Curtainup's review), felt he had a lot to say about what it means to be politically persuasive. If only A Perfect Future was more purposefully convincing. I can't help but wonder what my reaction to the play would have been if the management had thought to hand out free glasses of that thousand dollar "d'y' quem" to all the patrons leaving the theater.

A Perfect Future
By David Hay
Directed by Wilson Milam

Cast: Daniel Oreskes (Elliot Murphy), Donna Bullock (Natalie Schiff-Hudson), Michael T. Weiss (John Hudson), Scott Drummond (Mark Colvin)
Set Design: Charles Corcoran
Costume Design: Michael Mcdonald
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Daniel Kluger
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes including intermission
Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street
(212) 239 - 6200
Tickets ($69.00)
Performances: 02/04/11 - 02/27/11: Tuesday - Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM; Sundays at 3 PM and 7 PM. Beginning 02/28/11 Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 PM; dark on Wednesdays, Thursday and Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 3 PM and 7 PM.
Previews began 02/4/11
Opened 02/17/11
Bad reviews ended this open run quickly-- last performance 3/06/11 Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/18/11
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