Saturday, April 26, 2014
It's beginning to look like the promise that playwright Sharr White demonstrated with "The Other Place" will not be fulfilled. His next play seen in NY, "Snow Geese" at Manhattan Theatre Club, was an ambitious but unfocused family drama that made my 10 Worst List for last year. Now along comes this flawed two-hander at The New Group, starring real-life couple Karen Mullally and Nick Offerman, best-known for their roles in sitcoms -- "Will and Grace" and "Parks and Recreation," respectively. Offerman plays Ulysses, a once-successful poet and professor, now dying of emphysema and lung cancer in a messy trailer in the Colorado Rockies. Mullally is Emma, his ex-wife, who ran off with their five-year-old son Sam in the middle of the night 20 years ago and who suddenly turns up unexpectedly on his doorstep. Apprently her second marriage has also failed. This set-up sounds promising and the play begins with a few lively scenes separated by blackouts. Then, unfortunately, the scenes get longer -- much longer -- and less lively. The answer to the question of why Emma left so suddenly with their son way back when, is very gradually teased out, with much verbal padding along the way. The truth that is more or less revealed seemed to me full of logical holes which I cannot discuss without telling too much. Offerman is superb; he knows how to command a stage. Mullally is strangely restrained and a bit monotonous. The set design by Thomas A. Walsh and costumes by Ann Closs-Farley are first-rate. Bart DeLorenzo's direction was problematic for me: the tone and pace of the first few minutes suddenly turn into something quite different from the tone he has established. Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission.