(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
With widely acclaimed runs in Chicago and London as well as nominations for both the Pulitzer and Blackburn Prizes, Lisa D'Amour's play arrives in New York with expectations high. Instead of Broadway, where it was originally destined, it has ended up at Playwrights Horizons, a more suitable home. The action takes place in two adjacent houses in a Levittown-like suburb that is showing the effects of changing times. Mary (Amy Ryan) and Ben (David Schwimmer) invite their new neighbors Sharon (Sarah Sokolovic) and Kenny (Darren Pettie) over for a backyard barbecue. Ben, laid off from his bank job, is home all day working on an internet-based business start-up while Mary works as a paralegal. Although stung by the Great Recession, they have thus far successfully hung onto their middle-class life. Kenny works in a warehouse and Sharon, in a call center; they recently met in rehab. They are virtually penniless and are making, at best, a half-hearted effort to better their lives. The two couples have very different world views and would never have become friends if proximity had not intervened. A series of mishaps plagues their get-togethers and their relationship eventually spins into chaos. The awkward final scene introduces a new character, Frank (John Cullum), to put events into historical perspective. Each character has at least one highly charged monologue. The women's parts are developed much more fully than the men's. Schwimmer seems to play the same character whatever he is in. Pettie is fine and the two actresses are excellent. Cullum is mostly wasted. The revolving set by Louisa Thompson is perfect. Kaye Voyce's costumes are fine. Anne Kauffman's direction gets over the play's lumpy spots fairly well. The theme of the loss of neighborliness in a declining America is not particularly original. The play has many flaws, but also many virtues, including lots of energy. D'Amour has an original voice and I look forward to her future work. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes without intermission.