Thursday, April 2, 2015

Buzzer **

I had high hopes for Tracey Scott Wilson’s play, newly arrived at the Public Theater after productions in Minneapolis and Chicago. The premise of an interracial couple moving into a gentrifying neighborhood with an addict friend in tow seemed promising. Jackson (Grantham Coleman) is an African-American from the ‘hood who got a scholarship to Exeter, went on to Harvard and Harvard Law and is now a successful lawyer. Don (Michael Stahl-David), a privileged white who has been his close friend since Exeter, is now an oft-relapsed addict. Jackson has been an intensely loyal friend who has taken Don in after each failed attempt at rehab. Jackson’s seemingly implausible decision to move back to the neighborhood he escaped from is motivated by a desire to return as victor. Jackson’s longtime live-in girlfriend Suzy (Tessa Ferrer, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Sandra Bullock), teaches school in a low-income area. She is not keen on moving to the old ‘hood and is definitely against allowing Don to move in with them while he once again attempts to get his act together. Jackson moves ahead on both fronts anyway. It does not turn out well for them. The apartment's broken buzzer is a metaphor. Although the play touches on race, class, codependency, gentrification and betrayal, it doesn’t shed much light on any of these topics. Don has by far the showiest role and Stall-David makes the most of it. Ferrer is an appropriately edgy Suzy. Coleman seemed a bit underpowered as Jackson, but the problem may be in the writing. Laura Jellinek’s attractive set suggests the appeal of the apartment and opens up to reveal the building’s lobby. Clint Ramos’s costumes were appropriate. The end of the play seemed rushed, but I don’t know whether the fault lies with director Anne Kauffmann or with the playwright. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

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