Monday, November 5, 2012
The third installment in Richard Nelson's series of four plays about the Apple family of Rhinebeck, NY is now at the Public Theater. The first play, "That Hopey Changey Thing," was set on Election Day of 2010.; the second, "Sweet and Sad," on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The current play takes place on Election Day, 2012. Once again we meet the four middle-aged Apple siblings and their uncle. Barbara (Maryann Plunkett), the never-married eldest, and Marian (Laila Robbins), who has moved in with her after separating from her husband, are looking after Uncle Benjamin (Jon Devries), a retired actor of some note, who has suffered a heart attack and a subsequent loss of memory and inhibitions. Jane (J. Smith-Cameron), a writer, and Richard (Jay O. Sanders), a lawyer, have come up from Manhattan to provide moral support on the day that Uncle Benjamin will be moved to a care facility. These four intelligent people spend two early morning hours discussing life in general and the state of the nation. That's about it. Nelson may be our most Chekhovian playwright, but a Chekhov play is action-packed by comparison. Without the superb ensemble acting of this fine cast, it would not be worth anyone's time. After watching them create these vivid characters in the two earlier plays, it was a pleasure to see them together again. (I missed Shuler Hensley's character, absent from this play.) That pleasure began to wear a little thin after the first hour. At an hour, 45 minutes without intermission, the play did not sustain my interest. I doubt that anyone who has not seen at least one of the previous plays would find it worthwhile. Nelson also directed.