Review of Manhattan Theatre Club's Continuity at New York City Center

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    May 24, 2019
    Review by:
    Constance Rodgers

    The world is ending. The writer is dying. The Styrofoam rock is repeatedly broken. Daylight is fading, and the movie's last shot is not complete. There is nothing anyone can do about any of it.

    A movie within a play, Continuity is a Manhattan Theatre Club production, now playing New York City Center. It's written by Bess Wohl, and it's a funny, sad essay on climate change. A film crew is shooting the last shot of an action film about eco-terrorism and everything that can go wrong does. The metaphor of a chaotic film set, with its director and crew helpless to affect change on set and its myriad disasters, is a brilliant stand in for the Earth's rapid decline and our inability to affect meaningful change on Earth.

    Though the topic is deadly serious the play is not, until the end. Larry (Max Baker), the film's science adviser, has a bleak view of where we are heading and tells the crew and us that there is nothing we can do to stop our Earth's end. Larry chastises Maria (Rosal Colon), the director, when she suggests her film will educate and inspire people to action, telling her that her film is pointless. Not only because it is too late, but because when people go to a movie about climate change they leave feeling like they have already done something to help and so take no further action. Hummm. That struck a chord with me.

    This dark comedy provides many laughs, especially if you have ever been on a film set, but the scene that cracked me up the most was when Lily (Jasmine Batchelor), playing a black actor from England, tries to explain to George (Alex Hurt), with no success, that she is not African-American. Hurt's confounded expression and simple, “Why?” was brilliantly delivered.

    All of the actors are wonderful. Three of them are actually playing two parts (Jasmine Batchelor, Alex Hurt and Megan Ketch) as they are themselves and their characters in the film within the play. Colon's performance as the director was moving and thoughtful. It felt as if she was representing all women stepping boldly into roles traditionally, and still predominately, held by men, as Rachel Chavkin the director of Continuity and Bess Wohl the writer are doing so magnificently.

    Continuity is partially funded and supported by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation which provides grants to art projects that bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities, which this production certainly does. I learned a lot and I am inspired to learn more, hopefully I will take action, proving Larry wrong...

    (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

    "On an ice shelf made of Styrofoam, decorated with snow made of plastic, an eco-thriller is being shot in the New Mexico desert. That’s both the setup for Bess Wohl’s Continuity and a sample of the paradoxes it keeps trying to wind into a play. But Continuity, a Manhattan Theater Club production that opened on Tuesday night, never convincingly weds its airy approach to its heavy subject, which is nothing less than the fate of the earth as global warming reaches a tipping point."
    Jesse Green for New York Times

    "For years, the promising young actress-turned-playwright Bess Wohl (Small Mouth Sounds) has been trying to write a play about one of the biggest issues of our era: climate change. But it wasn’t until she spent time on the set of the 2018 Netflix movie “Irreplaceable You,” which she wrote and produced, that she hit upon an ingenious way into the subject. And so the thoughtful and hilarious Continuity, which opened Tuesday at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage II space, takes place on the set of a big-budget Hollywood thriller that is going wrong on many, many levels."
    Thom Geier for The Wrap

    "If you've ever watched a movie being filmed, you know that the process is marked by endless repetition and a snail's pace. Playwright Bess Wohl conveys that experience all too accurately in her new dark comedy depicting the shooting of a Hollywood eco-thriller. Mixing tired satirical japes with dire warnings about climate change, Continuity, receiving its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club, would have benefited from being truer to its title."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter