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A CurtainUp Review
Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis

Lately I feel that time is running out. I can feel it quietly slipping through my fingers.— Herman Kline
Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis
Adam LeFevre
(Photo: Robert J. Saferstein)
Herman Kline is a successful physician at a prominent New York City hospital. Yet his life is falling apart. His wife suspects he is cheating because he is distracted and unresponsive. But he really spends much of his time feeling lost and performing inane activities, like staring at the tiles in public bathrooms.

Josh Koenigsberg's new play, Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis, is written with both humor and insight. In the end, however, it chronicles not so much a midlife crisis as something much more severe.

The play opens in the Kline home. Liz Kline (Kathryn Kates) is preparing breakfast and reading a particularly interesting newspaper article (about a dog that dragged its owner down the street) to her husband, Herman (Adam LeFevre). Herman doesn't pay much attention until Liz states her suspicions. Adam convincingly explains his activities but then reveals that he has stolen a bag of crack from the rectum of a murdered youth, but never sufficiently explains why he has committed such a bizarre act before the scene shifts to the home of the Axelrods, friends of the Klines where daughter Lauren Axelrod (Mary Quick) is trying to deal with a former boyfriend, Ernie Santos (Bobby Moreno). Ernie needs money desperately. It seems that he is unable to deliver drugs to certain dangerous clients because his supplier has been attacked and he doesn't know where he or the drugs are.

Strange coincidence. But there's more to come.

It turns out Lauren is Liz's informal (and unqualified) therapist. She is not so much interested in Liz's problems as she is in Liz's husband's ability to help her get a valued fellowship. But Ernie, hiding in an adjacent room, is very interested when he hears about Herman's adventure with the drug addict and his hidden cache.

Ernie waits for Herman outside the hospital and poses as one of the new medical recruits, a graduate from Johns Hopkins, which just happens to be Herman's alma mater. Ernie's ruse would be obvious to a dead man, but somehow Herman is fooled.

Okay, so the plot (or plots, as there seems to be two plays competing for our attention) is pretty contrived and unbelievable. But this production is nevertheless worthy of attention.

In the first place, Koenigsberg writes very fluid and funny dialogue. And director Sherri Eden Barber has assembled a cast that knows how to deliver it with sincerity and perfect timing.

LeFevre is totally likable and even convincing as the troubled physician and husband. Kates gives her character a range of emotions that run the gamut from amiable to suspicious, from biting to vulnerable. Quick and Moreno reproduce the body language and tone of youngsters with startling accuracy.

Curiously, Herman is a lot more forthcoming with Ernie than he is with his wife. So by the end of the play, we know exactly what he is going through, and it certainly isn't a midlife crisis.

What was the playwright trying to tell us about his characters and their problems? One cannot be certain. But somehow Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis has the kind of crystal clear acting and direction that keeps us interested all the way to its ambiguous ending.

Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis
Written by Josh Koenigsberg
Directed by Sherri Eden Barber
Cast: Kathryn Kates Liz Kline), Adam LeFevre (Herman Kline), Mary Quick (Lauren Axelrod), Bobby Moreno (Ernie Santos)
Scenic Designer: Anne Allen Goelz
Costume Designer: Whitney Locher
Sound Designer: Zane Birdwell
Lighting Designer: Jeffrey Small
Stage Manager: Catherine Lynch
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Theatre Row's Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
From 8//7/11; opened 8/14/11; closes 9/3/11
Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm
Tickets: $42.50 (212) 239-6200
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Aug. 13, 2011
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