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What s treat then to have an opportunity to see not one but two Greenberg play this seasons. Next month Take Me Out , his super hit, is being revived by 2nd Stage at its Hayes Theater. And right now there's also a fresh from Greenberg's fertile brain play called Perplexed that reunites Greenberg with Manhattan Theatre Club and its Artistic Director Lynne Meadow.
Alas, my high hopes for Perplexed proved premature.
Perplexed has much in common with Greenberg's last MTC play Assembled Parties which was also about an upper middle New York Jewish family. Like all MTC productions, it features a top drawer cast and production values — with Santo Loquasto one again creating a home likely to make New York theager goers drool.
But this new play is not nearly as smartly scripted and engaging as Assembled Parties, Take Me Out and the Pulitzer nominated Three be Days of Rain. If it's intended as a refreshing new take on the once popular drawing room comedies, especially with the action revolving around a wedding, Perplexed is more likely to put the nail in this genre's coffin than resurrect it..
The ten members of this wedding party that we meet aren't very interesting. Neither is their endless kvetching about past hostilities and current concerns. Though much information about their past and present lives is unspooled, it all adds up to an overly long, overstuffed with issues muddle of a play in which neither the characters or the issues are fully developed.
The plot (if you can call it that) revolves around two long warring families whose children's ' wedding has forced them to put aside past hostilities. But that doesn't stop the older generation from kvetching on and on and on about their past and current problems. Most likely the periodic appearances by the younger generation is intended to underscore their elders' sense of no longer being woke. Though kvetching à la Richard Greenberg is high flown enough to smack of significance, this mish-mash of duologues leaves the audience even more than Greenberg's characters perplexed.
The character who's responsible for the fraught history of the Stahl and Resnik family and host of this prolonged wedding party is Berland Stahl,. Maybe if this aged and demented Trump-Murdoch-ish real estate tycoon were front and center in the library with the rest of the Stahls and Resniks things would be more lively. But since he's kept off-stage in the ballroom where guests are partying ahead of the midnight ceremony it's left to the bride and groom (she a Stahl and he a Resnik) and their parents to fill us in on the details of the rift between the once families. Despite the many monologues and duologues the characters past relationships and details about a law suit that cause of the feud that left both needing new sources of income remain unclear and make much of thee interchanges we are privy to hard to follow. In short, perplexing!
The actors, all pros, do their best to deliver the lines, land the laughs, and make the awkward entrances and exits less clunky. But even these pros can do only so much with what they've been given and Lynne Meadow's surprisingly sluggish direction.
Frank Wood gives the play's most moving performance as Joseph Stahl, Berland's disinherited and sexually conflicted son. The always excellent Margaret Colin is fine as his wife Evy. For her the disinheritance opened the door to a career which she now fears is endangered by younger and fresher candidates as well as a breaking news story about her medical student son Mica's (Zane Pais) extra-curricular work in gay porn films
While Mica's occasional scenes come close to validating the play's billing as a drawing room comedy, the running joke about Colin's increasingly wet skirt due to a water main crisis in her district is too contrived to be really funny. But then, so much is contrived here. For example, scheduling the wedding for midnight, is obviously to allow the family to air out their grievances and concerns before the happy ending that's par for this genre.
The play opens with Evy's brother James (Patrick Breen), a novelist who can no longer find a publisher, and family friend Cyrus Bloom (Eric William Morris) whose hyphen requiring careers inlude rabbi which he's now been asked to activate in order to officiate at the wedding. Both men (and later Joseph) are struggling to compose well wishing comments to the newlyweds. Breen and Morris are well cast as these glib, self-deprecating types.
Greg Edelman, is all amiability as lawyer Ted Resnik, the father of the groom, but like every member of this group, he's got his own past history — not just opting for a practical career after thst mysterious law suit to allow his wife Natslie (Ilana Levine) to continue her socialite life style but with Colin's Evy.
The bride and groom (Tess Frszer and JD Taylor) also pop up periodically and for the inevitable finale. We also meet Patricia (Anna Itty), Berland's aide who, though abused and underpaid , is the most satisfied and happy character on stage. While Itty shines in the part, her role seems a too self-conscious tip of the hat to diversity and giving an old-fashioned genre a relevant edge.
Ultimately Perplexed squanders MTC's significant resources on a disappointingly insignificant work by a significantly talented playwright.
Oh, and if Santo Loquasto's set has you dreaming of similar spacious and elegant quarters. If the current administration's anti-immigrant policies continue, where are you going to find someone to clean all those rooms, dust the books?
Reviews to Richard Greenberg Plays Reviewed at Curtainup
href="ourmothersbriefaffair16.html"> Our Mother's Brief Affsir
Three be Days of Rain<(Pulitzer runner up)
Take Me Out
Hurrah At Last
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The Perplexed by Richsrd Greenberg
Directed by Lynne Meadow
Cast: Patrick Breen (James ArlenJ), Margaret Colin Evie Arlen-Stshl), Gregg Edelman (Ted Resnik), Tess Frazer (Isabel Stshl), Anna Itty (Patricia Persaud), IlanaLevine (Natalie Hochberg- Resnik), Eric William Morris (Cyrus Bloom), Zane Pais (Micah Stshl), JD Taylor (Caleb Stahl), Frsnk Wood (Joseph Stshl)
Lighting: Kenneth Posner
Sound: Fitz Patton
Stage Manager: Denise Cardarelli
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission
Manhattan Thestre Club, City Center Stage 1
From 2/11/20; opening 3/03/20; closing 3/29/20,
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer st 3/01/press preview
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