(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
As the recipient of the prestigious Laurents-Hatcher prize for 2013, Daniel Pearle's new play arrives at LCT3's Claire Tow Theater with expectations high. By and large, these expectations have been met and its worthiness for an award is clear. This tale of a Manhattan couple, probably Upper West Siders, struggling through the process of getting their only child into a prestigious private school has a twist: Little Jake, whom we never meet, is obsessed with Cinderella and likes to dress up like a girl. Jake's mom Alex (Carla Gugino), who abandoned a career in dance for the law and then for full-time motherhood, is still emotionally fragile after a recent miscarriage. Her husband Greg (Peter Grosz) is a laid-back psychotherapist. They are not sure whether Jake's predilection for "gender-variant" play, with which they seem mostly comfortable, is an obstacle to admission or, as their counselor/friend Judy (Caroline Aaron) suggests, a selling point for a school to achieve diversity. The application process with its essays, testing, visits, interviews and strategizing places their marriage under tremendous pressure that eventually opens fissures that release a painful outpouring of raw emotion. The three lead actors are superb and the buildup to their catharsis is gripping. I have qualms about the penultimate scene with Alex and a nurse (Michelle Beck), but my reaction to the play as a whole is overwhelmingly positive. Andromache Chalfant's flexible set serves well as several locales. Jessica Wegener Shay's costumes do not call attention to themselves. Evan Cabnet's direction is assured. Running time: one hour, 45 minutes, no intermission. Note: I am told that the entire run is sold out, but watch for a possible extension. Incidentally, LCT3's marketing plan finally seems to be paying off -- the audience had a substantially higher percentage of young people than usual.