NY Theater Review by Sandi Durell
In Sharr White’s (The Snow Geese, The Other Place) latest offering, this sometimes comical, yet annoyingly touching play, can make you crawl – – maybe it’s all those ants that have made their way into the cruddy, mess of a trailer cowboy poet-recovering alcoholic Ulysses calls home in the Colorado Rockies. When we meet him, he’s wearing a filthy apron, and a backpack that carries his oxygen tank to which he’s hooked up – butt bare. A dog keeps barking outside.
Nick Offerman and real life wife Megan Mullally (Emma) make up the now divorced pair as we find her bursting into the trailer, luggage in tow, as she just happens to be passing through the “ass crack of the Rockies.”
It is 20 years later since Emma ran out on Ulysses with their 5 year old son, in the middle of the night, and she has just left her second husband. This love-hate relationship bares lots of mutual affection as she busily starts to clean up the mess in which Ulysses lives, as well as getting him to clean up his unkempt self. She shops for groceries, makes him a sandwich, counts out a lot of money and, all the while, he unrelentingly rages at her to get out. She unleashes a tirade of memories endeavoring to make him remember what happened that night she left and what he did to their son while he was in a drunken stupor.
As the play moves forward, the heat rises and the discomfort of such realism can become wearying within the 90 minutes as they tear into each other, he having attacks, unable to breathe (he is dying of cancer), she tending to him. He has spent all his time writing an epic poem “Annapurna” about a Himalayan mountain (a metaphor for Emma).
Both Offerman and Mullally give stellar performances but I can’t say I was unhappy when this raw and brutal therapy session was over.
Surely Thomas A. Walsh has captured the foul and detailed chaotic living conditions in this trailer. Sharr White has written another gut wrencher offered by the New Group and directed by Bart DeLorenzo.
Acorn Theater, the New Group @ Theater Row, 410 West 42nd Street, Clinton, 212-239-6200, telecharge.com. Through June 1. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Photo: Monique Carboni