Monday, December 3, 2012

What Rhymes with America *

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
When I saw Melissa James Gibson's play This at Playwrights Horizons three years ago, I thought she demonstrated great promise. Alas, she has not delivered on that promise in her new play, now in previews at Atlantic Theater. Hank (Chris Bauer) is an unemployed economist who is trying to win back his estranged wife after spending her retirement savings. He tries to recruit his 16-year-old daughter Marlene (Aimee Carrero) as a go-between. At the hospital where Marlene volunteers, Hank meets Lydia (Seana Kofoed), a 40-ish virgin with issues. The fourth character, who basically steals the show, is Sheryl (Da'vine Joy Randolph), an unsuccessful actress who, along with Hank, works as a super at the Met to earn some money. She gets two big scenes -- recreating her audition for Lady Macbeth and reciting a patter list of characters from Wagner operas. Unfortunately, neither of these scenes has much to do with the central plot of the play, assuming there is one. Gibson clearly has a love of language, but she has not used it to build a coherent play. Laura Jellinek's monochromatic grey set is appropriately bleak. Emily Rebholz's costumes for the supers from the Ring and Aida are amusing. Director Daniel Aukin did not succeed in making a silk purse. There was much grumbling in the audience at play's end. Running time: 80 minutes without intermission.

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