Relatively Speaking

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    October 1, 2011

    This is an odd collection of plays for an evening’s fare: lots of shtick; A billion one-liners; Even some meaningful text here and there. But for the most part this is sit-com writing performed live, which is why so many people were laughing. This is what we are used to. Meanwhile the better writing is in residence with Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout.

    The first of this trilogy – and these plays are not connected in any way other than they are all about families – The Talking Cure, is about a patient/inmate Jerry (Danny Hoch ) who has several sessions with his Doctor (Jason Kravits) before we see his parents last fight prior to his birth. Father (Allen Lewis Rickman) and Mother (Katherine Borowitz) are so vile that it is a wonder they spawned a human. They don’t speak, they spew. Thirty or so years later, Jerry has slipped loose the coil of accepted behavior and assaulted a woman in the post office. Why? She didn’t like the way her package was wrapped. In the exchanges between doctor and patient, and keeping with the Coen style, it is the patient who is the alpha dog, and all the Doctor can do is try and keep up. “Somebody is always a dick.” Jerry tells the Doctor. No matter the situation. And in this case there are four.

    In George Is Dead, Marlo Thomas, who is recognizable by her voice alone, is a self-referential woman who is so rich she can choose what she will and will not think about. Mostly Doreen chooses to think about herself. This leaves her pretty much without friends. So, when her husband dies on a skiing trip, she shows up at the apartment of her Nanny’s daughter. It is the closest she can get to being taken care of. Carla (Lisa Emery) is in the middle of a marital blow-up that could be the end for her and her husband Michael (Grant Shaud) who is staying out late drinking with friends. Doreen prattles on an on, almost without taking a breath, wondering how this happened to her. How did she get so old? Doreen steamrolls over Carla’s reference to her own troubles until Carla barks, “Don’t you ever listen?” “No,” says Doreen, “Listening to each others’ stories is like getting other people’s underwear…” Soon Carla is making funeral arrangements while she watches her marriage dissolve. Doreen remains in her bubble and life goes on.

    In the final, and the least appealing of the three plays, Honeymoon Hotel, there is a collection of people from an ill-fated wedding that seem to have been saving up one-liners for the past few years. They have also been saving up glares and a variety of mugging poses that are so long you could back a truck through them. This play feels like something that Mr. Allen might have written for the Sid Caesar Hour, and with Caesar it might have been funny. It is the classic set up of two people being alone, and one by one the rest of the family arrives, each bringing their own set of shtick moves with them. Mark Linn Baker and Julie Kavner as Sam and Fay Roth are the only two who seem able to pull off their jokes without commenting on them. The rest of the cast are trotting trough their blocking and waiting for the other actors to stop talking so that they can deliver their lines. Once the line is delivered they pause and wait for the laugh, mug a little to make the laugh last longer (and this works, shame on the audience) and proceed to their next assigned spot on stage. This is not acting. This is playacting. To top it off with a cherry, the whole plot is reminiscent of his relationship with his adopted daughter, now wife, Soon-Yi Previn.

    It’s not atrocious theatre. It’s not really anything theatre. In the words of one Judy Spector, it is “boring, asexual and old” theatre.

    What the popular press said...

    "A reasonably savory tasting platter of comedies."
    Charles Isherwood for the New York Times

    "Limp show at stiff Broadway prices."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "This is an egregious case of selling your audience short."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "There's plenty of laughter ..., ... in spite of the show's shortcomings."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Though energetically directed by actor John Turturro, leaves a faint footprint"
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "John Turturro gets directing credit here but credit is sadly the wrong word. Blame is more like it. Though let's be fair, relatively speaking, there's plenty of blame to go around!"
    Roma Torre for NY1

    "This alleged entertainment consists of three feeble one-act comedies."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "The featherweight package makes a flimsy case for the star power of writers."
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "Modestly amusing."
    Marily Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety