Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fifty Words

Photo/Joan Marcus

Everything you need to know about the marriage in Fifty Words can be summed up by Austin Pendleton's silent, pre-blackout moment. Adam (Norbert Leo Butz) marches down the stairs and Jan (Elizabeth Marvel) comes through the front door: the two pointedly ignore one another as they cross paths. It's a necessary bit of staging, for Butz and Marvel are such tremendously subtle actors that without clueing us in, one could easily spend the first twenty minutes wondering where all the drama was, missing the tension around a smiled line like "In case there's any ambiguity, that was foreplay," and failing to spot the active choice to compliment the food instead of the waiter. There's a precise imprecision to this failing marriage that epitomizes America today just as Albee captured our past in Virginia Woolf, and Michael Weller's on his A-game, keeping the two-hander clever, despite traveling a much beaten-to-death path.

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