Saturday, January 28, 2017



Anna Jordan’s prize-winning drama about three members of a British underclass family and their neighbor is having its New York premiere in an MCC production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Hench and Bobbie are teenage half-brothers who are living alone and unsupervised in their alcoholic diabetic mother Maggie’s flat after she moves out to live with her current boyfriend. Hench (Lucas Hedges of “Manchester by the Sea” in an impressive stage debut) is a sullen, emotionally constricted 16-year-old who has nightmares and wets the bed. Bobbie (the impressive Justice Smith) is a hyperactive potty-mouthed 14-year-old (in London the character was only 13) who has unspecified special needs. The boys spend their time playing violent video games and watching porn. Their unseen dog Taliban, so named because he is vicious and brown, is confined to their spare room because he bit someone the last time they let him out. The brothers spot Maggie (Ari Graynor, who looks too pretty and kempt) passed out on the street and bring her in to sober her up. Later the boys are visited by Jennifer (Stefania LaVie Owen), a sweet-dispositioned 16-year-old neighbor, recently arrived from Wales, who is concerned about Taliban’s possible mistreatment. She becomes friendly with the brothers, particularly Hench, who also is stirred by feelings for her. It all turns out very badly. The production is ill-served by an intermission that disrupts the play’s flow. Somehow the play gained 20 minutes since London, where it was performed without a break. The thick working-class British accents and, to a lesser extent, the Welsh accent are challenging. The plot has a few contrivances that make no sense. The brothers have to share one shirt, because they left their laundry with their grandmother the day before she disappeared with her immigrant boyfriend. Was one of them running around shirtless that day? There is too little context for the characters. We never learn what demons bedevil Hench or, for that matter, why he is called Hench. Trip Cullman (Punk Rock) commits one of the cardinal (at least in my book) sins of directing: shining bright lights in the audience’s eyes. The set by Mark Wendland is efficient but uninspired. The costumes by Pamela Young are apt. When it was all over, I had to ask myself what was the play’s point. Is it just a slice of life about the British lower classes? A screed about the evils of porn and video games? A cautionary tale about bad parenting? Judge for yourself if you are so inclined. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission.

No comments: