Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Other Side Of Darkness

A nearly relentless back and forth volley of bitter between a bankrupt gay playwright (apparently those huge Broadway hits of his youth that we keep hearing about don't bring in any licensing fees) and his screen actress wife (she's popular enough to be in competition with Meryl Streep for starring roles - my palm is still hot from laughing into it), this play's first act is full of the kind of pained tragic-glamorous sighs that used to be heaved in the '40s to indicate the more sophisticated agonies of the well-off. Oh darling, the suffering, how can we endure the suffering! The characters aren't convincing for a second (for instance Kristy Cates doesn't seem to realize that she's playing a Narcissist, which is understandable, considering that the playwright doesn't seem to realize he's trying to write one) and there are wearying, witless cliches when they spar where cutting zingers should be. The second act (which, excluding an epilogue, flashes back a couple of decades to their first meet-cute) is better and gives the actors the chance to show that they are playing humans rather than ice machines, but it's already too late: the Merrily We Roll Along-like reverse chronology has already forced the characters on us at their most aggressively unlikeable for over an hour before there's any reason to care about them. The play's one mitigating factor is that there's a third character, a Hollywood agent whose affair with the husband seems to span decades, whose chief purpose seems to be to provide comic relief. By default he also provides the play's only signs of real life. Rob Maitner, who plays him, is a miracle worker: everytime he makes an entrance the play rises from the dead.

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