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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Jenny Sandman
Eastern Standard is set in 1987 Manhattan, and deals with all the flashpoints therein--yuppies, AIDS, the stock market, trendy restaurants, homelessness, and urban malaise. The first act is set in one of those uber-trendy restaurants, with a relentlessly black-and-white motif and grouper tortellini as the lunch special. Stephen, a disenchanted architect, is lunching with his gay friend Drew. At the next table, Phoebe finds out her gay brother Peter has AIDS. Then a strident homeless lady causes a scene, and the four find themselves thrown together in an odd way.
During the second act, at Stephen's house in the Hamptons, the two new couples try to find a way to interact. It's not easy. Everyone is nursing wounds, and they are all distant and cautious, though the mutual attraction is evident. Phoebe and Stephen are in love, though Phoebe's ex is causing some problems, and Peter refuses to let Drew get close because he doesn't want his secret revealed. Drew, of course, only thinks Peter is being aloof, and so feels hurt and bitter. As Stephen tells him, "Your irony keeps you inert." The flaky waitress and the homeless lady from Act One return, forcing everyone to reevaluate their priorities.
This is s witty, incisive writing, everything we've come to expect from Greenberg. The characters are delicately drawn, rather like Fitzgerald's characters, and the story has a graceful arc. The most interesting relationship is between Drew and Peter since the straight couple lacks sparkle.
The acting, while earnest, is tame; Stephen, played by Jack Reiling, and Phoebe, by Michelle Bagwell, have no real chemistry. Part of that could have something to do with the direction, which seemed less concerned with the story than with the set which is designed with care but involves some overly long and complicated changes.
While the production itself starts off slowly, it picks up steam as the actors warm up, making for a much more exciting second act. Shane Jacobsen and Jason Salmon put in a memorable performance as Drew and Peter, the doomed lovers, and Andrea Marshall-Money as the homeless woman, May, is simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Greenberg fans shouldn't miss this one.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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