Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Mystery of Love and Sex ***

About an hour into the first act of Bathsheba Doran’s new play at LCT’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, I began to wonder whether the playwright suffered from AD/HD. Roughly every 10 minutes, a new plot line arrived, seemingly out of left field. By the end of this overstuffed dramedy, I felt like a guest at a dinner party where too many courses were served. Fortunately, we have four fine actors — Tony Shalhoub, Diane Lane, Gayle Rankin and Mamoudou Athie — onstage to guide us through the many twists and turns. Howard (Shalhoub) is a successful Jewish author of mysteries. Lucinda (Lane) is a southern belle who met him at Yale, converted to Judaism and married him. Charlotte (Rankin) is their neurotic daughter who turned down Yale to attend a Southern college with Jonny (Athie), her friend since childhood. Charlotte and Jonny may or may not be falling in love. Howard is opposed, but alleges that it is not because Jonny is black. Among the semi-digested themes that are hurled at us like pitches from a batting machine are conscious and unconscious racism, sexism and homophobia; the angst of confused sexual identity, the self-centeredness of writers, Jewish-Black relations, intermarriage, same-sex marriage, strained marriage, the tricky relationships between parent and child, the porous border between friendship and love, the chances for a fresh start. Lest our interest lag, the author throws in a little semi-gratuitous nudity — twice. Andrew Lieberman’s simple set has a wall of curtains at the back that are tugged this way and that from time to time. The actors have to shlep a lot of furniture between scenes. The overlong first act had a few false endings that were greeted by applause because the audience thought the act was over. Kaye Voyce’s costumes are fine. The ubiquitous Sam Gold directed. It is far from a good play, but nonetheless an entertaining one, thanks largely to the appealing cast and several comic moments. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including intermission.

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