Regular readers of this blog know that I am a devoted fan of A. R. Gurney’ plays. I was therefore very pleased to learn that Signature Theatre would present three of his works — two revivals and a new play — this season. In addition, a Broadway revival of “Love Letters” with star (or stunt, depending on your point of view) casting is forthcoming. The play Signature chose to start the Gurney series is a rarely produced work from 1977. We meet five sets of people staying (or, in one case, working) at a nondescript motel outside of Boston. An elderly couple, Frank (the always fine Jon DeVries), who is suffering from heart trouble, and Jessie (Lizbeth Mackay, also very good) are in town to visit their newest grandchild. Vince, an overbearing father (Marc Kudisch, usually excellent, but stuck here with a one-note role) has brought his long-suffering son Mark (Will Pullen) for a Harvard interview that the father wants far more than his son. Andy (Kelly AuCoin) and Ruth (Rebecca Henderson) are a divorcing couple whose attempt to divide their possessions amicably goes awry. Phil (David McElwee) is a college student who has rented a room for the night to bed his girlfriend Sally (Ismenia Mendes) for the first time. Ray (Quincy Dunn-Baker) is a married traveling salesman who tries to pick up Sharon (an amusing Jenn Lyon), a waitress whose concern for her customers’ health is not appreciated by her employers. (Mendes, Henderson and Pullen appeared together recently in Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra at Playwrights Horizons.) The play’s gimmick is that all five stories take place simultaneously on the same set. (Gurney’s acknowledges Ayckbourn’s similar experiments.) This idea turns out not to be as interesting as it sounds. The set becomes cluttered with characters from different stories who barely manage not to bump into each other. It would have helped if the stories were more compelling and if they somehow enriched each other. Unfortunately, there is only one fleeting moment when two stories connect. Andrew Lieberman must have had fun designing the set; the plaid wallpaper and orange chenille bedspreads raise hideousness to new heights. Kaye Voyce’s costumes are unremarkable. I’m not sure what director Lila Neugebauer could have done to prevent this slender work from making such a tepid impression. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes including intermission.
Note: The stage is unusually high. Sitting in the third row, my eyes were level with its floor. Those in the first few rows on the right have a partially obstructed view.