Saturday, September 17, 2016

What Did You Expect? *** B

The second installment of Richard Nelson’s trilogy “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” now at the Public Theater, brings us back to the kitchen of the Gabriel family in Rhinebeck, New York, this time on September 16, 2016. Those of you who saw the first play, “Hungry,” will recall that it is set in the same place on March 4 of this year. Thomas Gabriel, a playwright and novelist, had died several months before. Mary Gabriel (Maryann Plunkett), a retired doctor, was his third wife and now his widow. His younger brother George (Jay O. Sanders) is a piano teacher and cabinetmaker. George’s wife Hannah (Lynn Hawley) works for a local caterer. George’s sister Joyce (Amy Warren), an unmarried assistant costume designer, is visiting from Brooklyn. Patricia (Roberta Maxwell), George and Joyce’s mother, now resides in a nearby assisted living facility, but is there for dinner. Somewhat peculiarly, Thomas’s first wife Karin (Meg Gibson), an actress, is also there, having rented the room over the garage. As the family prepares supper, they discuss a wide range of subjects, many of them literary. An erotic passage from Wharton, a famous picnic attended by Melville and Hawthorne, and a found letter from a famous artist all command their attention. The topics they are trying to avoid are the pressing ones — a family financial crisis brought on by Patricia’s gullibility. the downside of the gentrification of Rhineback for locals, the disinterest of wealthy Democrats in the working class. a generalized sense of anxiety and the upcoming election. As usual, Nelson brings things right up to date with a reference to Hillary’s pneumonia and Jimmy Fallon’s messing up Donald Trump’s hair on TV. The political elements seemed less important and less integral this time, almost as if they were grafted onto the play. The varied conversations also seemed less part of a coherent whole this time. Anyone who has not seen the previous play may not get a lot out of this one. Nevertheless, the ensemble cast is once again superb. Susan Hilferty again designed the costumes and, with Jason Ardizzone West, the cozy set. The playwright directed. We will have to wait until Election Day for the final play “Women of a Certain Age” to see what is in store for the Gabriels. Running time: one hour 40 minutes; no intermission.

1 comment:

erwatcher said...

I sat up high and because actors had their back to be I missed 40-50% of the dialog. I did not see the first play but I found this one unrewarding. The topical comments were brief and evaporated quickly. I would give it only * or **.