Saturday, May 27, 2017

Can You Forgive Her?


Gina Gionfriddo has borrowed the title of an 1864 Trollope novel for her new play at the Vineyard Theatre. We are left to guess to whom “Her” refers. Is it Tanya (Ella Dershowitz, Alan’s daughter), the virtuous young single mother who is doggedly trying to win a place in the middle class after a bad marriage and who wants to avoid getting stuck with another PWP (partner without prospects)? Is it the flamboyant Miranda (Amber Tamblyn, Russ’s daughter) who is trying to work off the six-figure debt she ran up largely due to the cost of her liberal education by getting together twice a week with David (the wonderful Frank Wood), a sugar daddy she met online? Could it be Miranda’s unseen mother who enabled her irresponsible lifestyle? Is it the late mother of 40-year-old twice-divorced Graham (a solid Darren Pettie), who has left him a run-down beach cottage and boxes of her unpublished manuscripts that he feels both compelled to and reluctant to read? My choice for the identity of “Her” is the playwright herself and my answer is a qualified “yes.” After greatly enjoying her two Pulitzer-nominated plays “Becky Shaw” and “Rapture, Blister, Burn,”  I had high expectations. Unfortunately they were not met. There won’t be any Pulitzer nominations for this play. Nevertheless, despite the dubious premise that brings these four characters together, despite the awkward structure with a long opening scene between Graham and Tanya followed by an even longer scene between Graham and Miranda, the play has its redeeming features, including some wonderful dialogue. The scene following David’s arrival works particularly well. Unfortunately it is followed by a weak ending. Eshan Bay has a small role as Sateesh, the Indian man who is allegedly Miranda's date for the weekend. I would have guessed that the play was a piece that needed further work, but learned that it was produced in Boston a year ago. Maybe its problems are resistant to further improvement. In any case, I forgive the playwright for not being at the top of her form. Even her second-drawer material can be entertaining. Allen Moyer’s set presents an appropriately drab living room. Jessica Pabst’s costumes are excellent. I’m not sure what director Peter DuBois might could have done to improve the play’s coherence. Running time: one hour 35 minutes; no intermission. 

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