Saturday, November 9, 2013

Domesticated ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Bruce Norris's acidic take on contemporary American gender relations, now at Lincoln Center Theater, is thoroughly entertaining and provocative without being fully satisfying. The by now iconic scene of a politician caught in a sex scandal resigning in public with his stoic wife at his side is our starting point. Fortunately for us, Bill and Judy are played flawlessly by Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf. The first act gives us Judy's view of the aftermath on herself, their daughters --  the self-absorbed Casey (Emily Meade) and adopted, virtually mute Cambodian daughter Cassidy (Misha Seo) --, housekeeper Pilar (Vanessa Aspillaga), Judy's best friend Bobbie (Mia Barron) and Bill's mother (Mary Beth Peil.) After his resignation speech, Bill does not get another chance to open his mouth until the very end of act one. We finally get Bill's side of the story in the second act as Norris sets him on a downward spiral, attacked by a transsexual (Robin de Jesus), rejected by patients, lectured by a Muslim woman on America's evils, estranged from his daughters, and finally confronted by Judy in a take-no-prisoners showdown. The play ends ambiguously. Norris is not subtle; he sometimes pushes his points too far and goes for easy targets like the talk show host (Karen Pittman) who uses the comatose prostitute Becky and her mother (Lizbeth Mackay) to pump up ratings. (Becky suffered a head injury during her session with Bill.) The play's scenes are cleverly interwoven by slides from daughter Casey's science report on varying gender roles in the animal kingdom, depicting an ever-diminishing role for the male of the species. The play is presented in the round with an effective minimalist set by Todd Rosenthal that suggests an arena. Jennifer von Mayrhauser's costumes are attractive. Anna D. Shapiro's direction is fluid and confident. I have some misgivings, particularly about the second act, but I nevertheless found it worthwhile. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

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