Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cost of Living


After a successful run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer, Martyna Majok’s (Ironbound) powerful four-character drama has arrived at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage I at City Center. The lead character, Eddie (Victor Williams, Luck of the Irish), begins the play with a well-written and well-performed 10-minute monologue that reveals that he is a long-distance truck driver who recently lost his wife. Next we meet Jess (Jolly Abraham, Coram Boy), an attractive woman in her twenties who is applying for a job as helper to John (Gregg Mogzala), a Harvard-educated grad student with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair. Jess works as a barmaid and needs the extra income. In a flashback, we meet Eddie’s wife Ani (Katy Sullivan) who lost her legs in an accident and is a bundle of rage. Two of the play’s most moving scenes take place in bathrooms where we see Jess shaving and showering John and Eddie giving a bath (and possibly more) to Ani. The play's strengths include  not portraying the disabled characters simplistically and in giving equal time to the needs of their caregivers. Each character is vividly sketched to the point that I wished I knew more about them. Until the final scene, each character interacts with only one other character. In that scene a new heartbreaking connection is made. I wish the author had omitted a brief manipulative reversal at the very end. The entire production is first rate: the acting, the revolving set by Wilson Chin (Aubergine, My MaƱana Comes), the character-appropriate costumes by Jessica Pabst (The Ruins of Civilization) and the smooth direction by Jo Bonney (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark). I read that the author expanded this work from a two-character play and the opening monologue. The combination was not totally successful; some of the stitches show. Nevertheless, seeing it is a worthwhile, if painful, experience. Running time: one hour 45 minutes, no intermission.

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