Saturday, February 14, 2015

Verité **

I envied the people around me who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves at a preview performance of Nick Jones’s new play at LCT3. From the get-go, I did not buy into the play’s premise — that a mysterious publishing house whose catalog cannot be found on the “normal” internet would offer a $50,000 advance to Jo Darum (Anna Camp), a stay-at-home suburban mom, whose only work is a fantasy novel that took her over a decade to complete, to write a memoir for them. The stipulations are that she make “interesting choices” in her life and write only about things that actually happened. Jo lives with her blue-collar husband Josh (Danny Wolohan) and young son Lincoln (Oliver Hollmann) in the attic apartment of Josh’s sister Liz’s (Jeanine Serralles) home. The comic/creepy publishers Sven (Robert Sella) and Andreas (Matt McGrath) have broad accents that somehow simultaneously combine elements from Scandinavia and South Asia. When the handsome Winston (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) appears, claiming to be a former high school classmate who has long had a crush on her, Jo assumes that he is a ringer, sent by the publishers to help her make some interesting choices. She refuses to join her family for a trip to Myrtle Beach and instead runs off with Winston. Complications ensue. I won’t give away more except to say there is an amusing surprise ending. The tone varies from satire to farce to melodrama. The characters seemed one-dimensional and the theme of illustrating the lengths people will go to achieve recognition seemed a bit tired. Although there were flashes of wit along the way, the play did not involve me sufficiently to care much about the outcome. Andrew Boyce has devised a rotating modular set that works efficiently. (I am still trying to figure out how he managed to change the contents of an onstage refrigerator.) Paloma Young’s costumes are amusingly apt, especially Sven and Andreas’s footwear. Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel’s (Hand of God) direction is uncluttered. Running time: one hour, 40 minutes; no intermission.

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