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A CurtainUp Review

by Les Gutman

Stewart: My glass has never been full.
Bill: Maybe your glass is too big.
Geneva Carr and Chris Burns
G. Carr and C. Burns (Photo: Sandra Coudert)

Stewart (Christopher Burns) is not happy. His work and marriage are unsatisfying. He doesn't like what he has become, and yet hasn't the first clue how to dig out of the bed he's made for himself. Yes, we are in the midst of a mid-life crisis.

Enter Tara (Lucia Brawley), a free-spirited co-worker who becomes the catalyst for Stewart's reformation, not to mention wavering eye. The other cast members populate the two forks in the road: the straight and narrow represented by his wife, Val (Geneva Carr), and a nerdy co-worker, Bill (Matt Pepper), and the fast and loose, charted through Stewart's sexually-adventurous sister, Jackie (Tasha Lawrence), his bar-fly buddy, Owen (Alex Kilgore) as well as the aforementioned Tara, who is not an airhead, having discovered the writings of Bertrand Russell as her enchiridion. She is also responsible for planting the play's title -- a sort of polar opposite Nirvana that's fantasized as an antidote to life in New York. Without divulging too much of what transpires, lets just say that when Stewart comes unglued, he does it with uncommon and ultimately devastating gusto.

The good news here is that playwright David Folwell pens very funny, well observed dialogue. Under Rob Bundy's tight direction, it plays out cinematically (with Wilson Chin's set abetting the process nicely). Unfortunately, the fine work never amounts to much. There is little here that is fresh or insightful, and the opportunity to make the play say something is not exploited. Moreover, three slightly racy scenes depicting Jackie's encounters with three of the many guys she serially "dates" (all portrayed by Mr. Pepper) do little beyond taking us out of the story.

Burns grounds the play believably, revealing an incipient anxiety that fuels his subsequent behavior. Brawley and Lawrence are also excellent as his accelerant and enabler, respectively. Geneva Carr must contend with a role that is both the play's most vanilla and also its most-underwritten; she does as much as she can. Pepper is on-target as the dense and annoyingly officious Bill. Rounding out the cast, Kilgore, whose character and relationship with Stewart is also underwritten, and who is inexplicably young as Stewart's buddy, makes the most of it.

Folwell, who is an award-winning playwright and a student of Albee, Norman and Durang (the latter two as a fellow at Julliard), writes well enough that our future attention is warranted. Now lets hope he can find some themes to make his good work seem justified.

by David Folwell
Directed by Rob Bundy
with Lucia Brawley, Christopher Burns, Geneva Carr, Alex Kilgore, Tasha Lawrence and Matt Pepper
Set Design: Wilson Chin
Lighting Design: Peter Hoerburger
Costume Design: Brian Russman
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Fight Director: Ray Rodriguez
Running time: 1 hours, 20 minutes with no intermission
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place (West 11th St./Perry near 7th Av.)
Telephone (212) 868-4444
WED - SAT @8, SAT - SUN @2; $37.50
Opening June 14, 2004, closes July 18, 2004
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 5/18/04 performance
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