Sunday, January 31, 2016

Our Mother's Brief Affair *

Noone knows how to pander to a Manhattan Theatre Club audience better than Richard Greenberg. String together some witty one-liners, throw in a Jewish matron, add a few Yiddish words, mention Great Neck at least once and, voila, MTC awaits with open arms. If you can get Linda Lavin to play the matron, all the better. And so we now have this strange lumpy play occupying the stage of the Friedman Theater. Anna (Lavin), on her deathbed for the umpteenth time and not fully of sound mind, confides to her son Seth (Gregg Keller), a gay solitary obit writer, that she had an affair when he was a teenager. Having trouble processing this information on his own, he summons his twin sister Abby (Kate Arrington) back from Southern California, leaving her wife and infant behind. Anna claims that while Seth was taking unwanted viola lessons at Juilliard, she was carrying on with a man (John Procaccino) she met on a park bench in Central Park who said his name was Fred Weintraub. SPOILER ALERT: Read no further if you don’t want to know an important plot point. Fred later reveals that he is actually David Greenglass, the man largely responsible for sending his sister Ether Rosenberg to the electric chair. (I confess that I find it distasteful when a playwright drags in a well-known historical moment, be it 9/11 or the Rosenberg case, to prop up his play.) To remind the audience who Greenglass was, director Lynn Meadow turns up the house lights so Seth can give us a short lecture, thereby destroying whatever mood had been established. David's confession is not a turnoff for Anna who responds with a confession of her own, recalling a shameful incident from her early adulthood. Time passes, Anna worsens, moves to assisted living and the family home is sold. Seth and Abby have their doubts about the truthfulness of Anna’s story. Unfortunately, Anna is so unsympathetic and her adult children so emotionally stunted that it is hard to develop much concern for them. The exposition involves long scenes of Anna and Phil/David reenacting her story while Seth and Abby are reduced to standing around and injecting an occasional sarcastic remark. Keller and Arrington make the best of their underwritten roles. Procaccino is fine and Lavin is Lavin. She looks smashing in her Burberry coat and still has great legs. That seemed enough to satisfy the audience. Santo Loquasto's understated set is a far cry from MTC's typically lavish set designs. Running time: two hours including intermission.

1 comment:

Andy Humm said...

Couldn't agree more! Amazing how Broadway indulges Richard Greenberg when he hasn't written a good play in an awfully long time.