If the title sounds prefer a much more straightforwardly lefty answer to a Stephen Colbert think-item, that's pretty much what the play devolves right into after an exhilarating begin.
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To enter Christopher Durang’s official website, the user is instructed to “Click Liv Ullmann having actually a nervous breakdown.” That image of the Ingmar Bergman muse, frozen in a Munch-favor scream, is as good a key as any kind of to the playwright’s absurd humor, which has scarcely mellowed in the 30-plus years since he was initially developed. It additionally illustrates his fascination via strung-out head cases, of which there’s a fresh handful in “Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them.” But while Durang hits his mark in the familiar area of domestic dysfunction, his political wit is much less incisive, yielding a comedy of diminishing returns.
If the title sounds choose a much more straightforwardly lefty answer to a Stephen Colbert think-item, that’s pretty much what the play devolves into after an exhilarating start. As a lot as they are still a component of our reality, red-alert paranoia over radical Islam, and also a Cheney-style shadow federal government organization willing to lop off fingers and ears to extract a confession feel choose yesterday’s satirical targets. But that’s not to say tbelow are no laughs.
Perhaps the a lot of unintended of them come from designer David Korins’ ingenious revolving collection, so perfectly attuned to the claustrophobic warped fact of Durang’s human being. Even scene changes are a delight, through the meticulously designed multiple compartments flying by prefer a spinning zoetrope, frequently still populated by the play’s characters.
Providing the closest thing to a voice of reason in an ensemble of folks flirting with insanity, Laura Benanti brings a charming light touch and dauntmuch less determination to Felicity, who finds herself in an awkward spot. Waking up in a hotel room after an intoxicated night of wild sex, she’s alequipped to learn she’s now married to Zamir (Amir Arison), a smug lover-boy she met at Hooters. In spite of his Middle-Eastern appearance and also the occasional remark around burkas and arranged marriages, Zamir insists he’s Irish. But Felicity begins to suspect the unemployed, possibly violent stranger may be a terrorist who slipped her a date-rape drug.
After her idea of an annulment brings out her new husband’s menacing side, Felicity takes Zamir to subcity New Jersey to satisfy her paleas. Her free-associating mom Luella (Kristine Nielsen) smiles and also makes nice via the guest, while her rabidly right-wing father Leonard (Rictough Poe) pulls a gun on him over French toast in their sitcom-cute kitchen nook.
Demarcating the action via bursts of Mark Bennett’s demented film noir music, director Nicholas Martin zips via the set-up with infectious assurance as Durang sketches out another of his idiosyncratic family systems of more-or-less functioning nuts.
Benanti is particularly winning as she battles to have actually a linear conversation through her verbally incontinent mom, or quizzes her father around the mysterious butterfly collection that keeps him forever busy in a locked room upstairs. Poe is hilarious as a gruff cartoon biacquired, napalming squirrels, reminiscing over Vietnam carnage or ranting around “cowardly liberals like our daughter — and that damn Jane Fonda.”
Durang injects amusing digs at his very own profession — notably at the Brit playwcivil liberties that conquer Broadway — via Luella’s love of the theater. Her accounts of the suicides of bridge-club acquaintances during “The Coast of Utopia” and “Faith Healer” are a hoot, as is her mounting hysteria as she contemplates the Terri Schiavo case. We’ve watched her bag of tics before, but constant Durang collaborator Nielsen is the most comfortable of the cast at traveling the playwright’s loopy wavelength; the dithery lunacy she brings to the admiration of a freduced setup or miming the action of “Les Miserables” is priceless.
As the plotting becomes even more complicated, yet, and the fourth wall comes dvery own, the play slowly slides off the rails, its laughs growing more strained.
In the time-honored screwsphere fashion of misunderstandings run riot, talk of “Big Bang,” a multicity orgy opus for which minister-cum-pornographic filmmaker Rev. Mike (John Pankow) has recruited Zamir, leads Leonard to suspect a terrorist assault. As Hildegarde, his enamored fellow operative in a covert government unit, Audrie Neenan has actually funny moments; she’s a type of Margaret Thatcher-meets-Mary Wickes, whose rogue panties are attributed to a Chinese elastic conspiracy. But her character and Pankow’s are underoffered by thin sketch material that can’t support the escalating chaos.
It’s likewise difficult to feel worry over Zamir’s victimization when the character’s ugly outbursts of threatening behavior make him a hostile existence from the begin, and also Arichild, channeling as well much Ben Stiller, is mostly one-note abrasive.
In his best plays, Durang peels back the wacky exteriors to show the sorrowful depths beneath his characters, yet no such surgery takes place here. Instead, he resorts to not especially clever metatheatrics and overusage of mock voiceovers (by David Aaron Baker) before handing the reins to an exasperated Felicity, that measures out of character to reform the outcome. But at that suggest, the play just fizzles into ineffectual whimsy.
Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
Public Theater/Newman; 299 seats; $70 topProduction:A Public Theater presentation of a play in 2 acts by Christopher Durang. Directed by Nicholas Martin.
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Crew:Sets, David Korins; costumes, Gabriel Berry; lighting, Ben Stanton; original music, Mark Bennett; sound, Drew Levy; production stage manager, Stephen M. Kaus. Opened April 6, 2009. Reperceived April 2. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.Cast:Zamir - Amir ArisonFelicity - Laura BenantiLuella - Kristine NielsenLeonard - Richard PoeVoice - David Aaron BakerRev. Mike - John PankowHildegarde - Audrie Neenan Music By: