'Brooklyn Laundry' review — Cecily Strong and David Zayas deal with a load of loss and love

Read our review of Brooklyn Laundry off Broadway, the latest new play written and directed by John Patrick Shanley and starring Cecily Strong and David Zayas.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Forget the dating apps — maybe the laundromat is be the place to find your next great love story. That's the case in the Off-Broadway play in Brooklyn Laundry, where listless, hardened Fran (Cecily Strong) and optimistic laundromat owner Owen (David Zayas) strike up an unlikely flame. Problem is, that flame is dependent on them being idealized versions of themselves. When fear, sickness, and family obligations rear their ugly heads, neither one quite knows how to face those realities on their own, let alone together.

Brooklyn Laundry presents itself as an imperfect love story — a go-to premise for playwright John Patrick Shanley, best known to the masses for writing that seminal one Moonstruck. But what it seemingly strives to be about, but Shanley's dialogue or direction don't quite achieve, is the toll it takes on a person to feel like your life is never in your control.

Fran has two sisters, Susie (Andrea Syglowski) and Trish (Florencia Lozano). Among the trio, Trish's life is overtaken by cancer, Susie's by a loveless home life, and Fran's by the seismic impacts of those two situations on her own future — and therefore any potential one with Owen. Owen is mostly spared only because life's unexpected twists have worked out in his favor; a car crash and job loss ultimately led to a payoff, and sexual troubles, which drove his former fiancée away, diminish with Fran's help.

So it largely goes for the play, too. Things go wrong, but they work out thanks to varying degrees of contrivance. As Fran and Owen claw their way to a happy ending, scarring each other in the process, I couldn't quite believe it — it felt like these characters will go back to their reality-averse ways after the curtain falls on their brief minute of happiness. A line delivered by a standout Syglowski in an earlier scene suggests as much. But the sheer force of Zayas and Strong's talent will have you wishing the cycle will rinse out differently.

Brooklyn Laundry summary

Shanley's world-premiere play is his third production in the 2023-24 season. This "Shanleyissance," as I've dubbed it, began with an Off-Broadway revival of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea in the fall and a Broadway revival of Doubt, which began performances three days before Brooklyn Laundry and closes alongside it on April 14.

The show also marks Shanley's return to directing for the first time in seven years: The last time he staged one of his own plays was in 2017 with The Portuguese Kid, also presented by Manhattan Theatre Club.

What to expect at Brooklyn Laundry

Manhattan Theatre Club's stage in the underground of New York City Center is about the size of a laundromat, so with the help of Santo Loquasto's naturalistic set (which also revolves to reveal renderings of two homes and a restaurant), it certainly convinces as one. Arriving to it reminded me a little of my own biweekly laundry ritual: descending the stairs to the laundry below my own building, heaping bag in hand to present to the owner.

We know each other by name, making the laundromat a reliable place to find a moment of community. Not unlike the theatre — and at Brooklyn Laundry in particular, as Fran and Owen's moment of connection over dirty clothes erupts into something much bigger.

What audiences are saying about Brooklyn Laundry

Audience responses to Brooklyn Laundry have been largely positive, with the show achieving an 83% audience approval rating on the consumer review aggregator Show-Score.

  • "See it if you want to marvel at Cecily Strong’s talent for 80 minutes of perfection." - Show-Score user Meghan 4060
  • "I enjoyed the show, I enjoyed the romantic cliches, I was blown away by the set and the acting... but 80 minutes felt short and so did the story. I really think the work was begging for a fleshed out 2nd act." - Show-Score user Harriet 4054
  • "Don't see it if realistic contemporary plays on the struggles and challenges of living a satisfying life is not your thing. A rare play that speaks clearly." - Show-Score user Buzzy
  • "[The show includes] depictions of cancer & death, lots of grief & loss. But characters have a sweet center however “gloomy” they present." - Show-Score user Alison 7003
  • "Nothing earth-shaking. Just a simple story by the great playwright/dialogue-writer John Patrick Shanley." - Show-Score user Zman 8279

Read more audience reviews of Brooklyn Laundry on Show-Score.

Who should see Brooklyn Laundry

  • Fans of Shanley's previous works: Unlikely love stories between troubled, ordinary people — like Roberta and Danny in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and Loretta and Ronny in Moonstruck — are Shanley's specialty. He works firmly in his wheelhouse here.
  • Theatregoers seeking something short and sweet: At 80 minutes long, Brooklyn Laundry will have you in and out of the theatre before your local laundromat closes.
  • Fans of Strong and Zayas: Zayas excels at gruff characters with unexpected warmth, and Strong excels at warm characters with an unexpected edge. In other words, two sides of the same coin, making the actors a natural pair.

Learn more about Brooklyn Laundry off Broadway

Brooklyn Laundry follows a familiar formula, one that's tailor-made to pull the heartstrings. With the help of a winning cast, it will for many.

Learn more and get Brooklyn Laundry tickets on New York Theatre Guide. Brooklyn Laundry is at New York City Center through April 14.

Additional Brooklyn Laundry content

Photo credit: David Zayas and Cecily Strong in Brooklyn Laundry off Broadway. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

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