Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Model Apartment *

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Since I had been warned not once but twice that the Primary Stages revival of this early play by Donald Margulies was terrible, I was quite surprised to read the ecstatic reviews in the press. As a wise person once said, "Don't believe everything you read in the papers." The warnings were well-founded. While survival guilt and the corrosive effects of the Holocaust on survivors' offspring are certainly worthy of theatrical treatment, what Margulies has written seems to me a strange melange with characters that are more constructs than human beings. Lola (Kathryn Grody) and Max (Mark Blum), survivors who met and married in New York, are now a middle-age couple who have left Brooklyn for the expected refuge of retirement in Florida. Since their condo is not yet ready, they are forced to move temporarily into the development's model apartment where things are not as they appear. Metaphor, anyone? We learn that they have left behind their daughter Debby (Diane Davis), a morbidly obese, emotionally disturbed adult who tracks them down and bursts in on their intended idyll. Her mentally challenged, homeless boyfriend Neil (Hubert Point-du Jour) mysteriously arrives shortly thereafter. In several short scenes, they have at each other and their private ghosts. Even at 85 minutes, the play seemed repetitious. The emotional payoff that critics thought made the ordeal of sitting through the play worthwhile was insufficient for me. I think the play would have succeeded better as a shorter one-act without the character of Neil diluting the toxic family dynamic, or as a two-act play with greater character development. Lauren Helpern's set design perfectly captures the Florida condo aesthetic. The production's tone is wobbly, but the fault lies more in the writing than in Evan Cabnet's direction. Running time: one hour, 25 mintues; no intermission.

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