(Review by Tulis McCall)
What a sweet, twisted and surprising tale. This play raises so many questions, the first one being – why aren’t there more plays like this floating around? Well, in a way there are. Once and 4,000 Miles come to mind – each equally arresting in their discovery of intimate relationships.
In this play Porter (Topher Grace) is a man who was crushed by the weight of his success in the world of finance. He had a nervous breakdown while doing a presentation and spent months in a mental facility. Now he is out in L.A. with not a lot going on, unless you count getting coffee from the local joint before it actually opens to the public as something. Nope, Porter is down.
His college (as in Harvard) friend Nick “Little Dog” (Christopher Jackson) fixes him up with Heather (Olivia Thirlby) who is an entertainment business analyst for UBS. Just the sound of that job title should let you know how tightly she is wired. Heather is also blind, but this in no way stops her from doing exactly what she wants to do. For everything that Nick has messed up in his business life, Heather has tackled and won.
As to personal lives – well they both pretty much suck at that. The last man Heather was with was a liar, or more precisely, ‘A lying sack of shit.’ Porter was married and had a house in the Hamptons when the earth opened up and swallowed him. As a matter of fact his wife Carlotta (Maureen Sebastian) is still in the picture. She uses Porter as a shoulder to cry on and for other bodily pursuits as well. Mostly she likes him because he is so morose. Go figure.
And there are the parents. Rick (Mark Blum), Porter’s father, is always on the make - practically a grifter. His attempts at family love have a price tag. And Heather’s mother, Grace is an unbalanced jumble of protective nerves who plants her well-intended foot in her mouth on a regular basis.
Friends? Little Dog (Christopher Jackson) is in it for the money, period. Who loses is no concern of his at any time. And there is Heather’s roommate Claire (Maureen Sebastian) who is so loopy you can almost hear the marbles rolling around in her noggin.
So while we track this budding relationship we are also tracking Porter and Heather when they are away from one another. And the fascinating choice that Weitz makes here is to keep them away from one another most of the time. It is as if the love story is a sub-plot to what is really going on, which is life. Porter and Heather are hacking away at the project called life. They bump into one another and cling like otters. Then a current comes along and pulls them apart. Back and forth they go, into and out of each other’s lives. And we get to watch.
This is not a happily ever after tale. It is not a tragedy either. Weitz’s writing lacks any trace of cuteness, and steers away from being maudlin. It is crystal clear because these fabulous actors take the material and fly. Trip Cullman has crafted a seamless production (with the exception of the unnecessary signage) that hits more than one ball out of the park. These characters connect not only with one another, but with us. We leave the theatre feeling a little bit smitten with the story and everyone in it.
Well done .
"Has the sweet suspense, elliptical construction and off-kilter charm of an ideal Hollywood rom-com."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"Fun and worthwhile just to see two exceptionally appealing young actors shine in sterling star turns."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Its sharp, off-kilter humor makes up for its lack of depth.”
Frank Scheck for New York Post
"I only wish that Weitz hadn’t used the same cheap jokes his characters mock and that his play had more substance than its people."
Suzy Evans for Back Stage
"It needs to be broader, deeper – something – to fill out its 90-minute performance time."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"Registers as vague, dull writing."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"Joins the growing ranks of stunningly mediocre works."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Second Stage scores again."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...