Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Qualms ****

With this comedy, now in previews at Playwrights Horizons, Bruce Norris (The Pain and the Itch, Clybourne Park, Domesticated) once again demonstrates that he is one of our most consistently entertaining playwrights. His depiction of a swingers’ party that goes awry is hysterically funny, occasionally touching, and uncomfortably perceptive about the foibles of human sexuality and other social behavior. For reasons that are a bit implausible, investment banker Chris (the always reliable Jeremy Shamos) has accepted an invitation to attend a swingers’ party with his attractive wife Kristy (Sarah Goldberg) at the home of Gary (John Procaccino) and his sexy but slightly dim partner Teri (the superb Kate Arrington), whom they had met on vacation. Gary argues at length about the unnaturalness of monogamy. They are joined by the plus-size Deb (the delightful Donna Lynn Champlin) and her younger black lover Ken (Andy Lucien) who combines an ultra-buff body with  a touch of swish. Last to arrive are Regine (Chinasa Ogbuagu), a sultry beauty from Martinique, and Roger (the fine Noah Emmerich), an ex-military libertarian. There’s also a delivery guy (Julian Leong) who earns laughs without saying a word. Chris quickly develops misgivings about being at the party and provokes the others by expressing unfashionably conservative views. His increasingly obnoxious behavior is a buzz-kill for the evening’s anticipated amorous adventures. Norris skillfully uses both overlapping dialog and the absence of dialog. A long silent scene near the end of the play is powerful in its impact. There's a momentary breach of the fourth wall that is very effective too. Director Pam MacKinnon manages all the action with aplomb. Todd Rosenthal has designed a condo living room that looks authentic and lived in. Jessica Pabst’s costumes are spot-on. Some may dismiss the play as lightweight, but I think there are some thought-provoking ideas lurking behind the humor. Besides, it was so funny that I wasn’t really looking for gravitas. Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob, I really liked reading your blob-especially since we attended the same performance and chatted a bit after the performance. I also enjoyed the play a lot, which caught me by surprise after I was "underwhelmed" by the synopsis about swingers at a house party. This was the first play I have seen by this well-known playwright. I found it witty, well-acted, and well-directed. I also felt that the talk back after the performance was the best that I have attended. Both the playwright and the director gave answers to questions which significantly enriched my understanding of this play. I am already recommending it to my friends.