by: Sandi Durell.
There’s turmoil a-brewing, not only on the stage at the Laura Pels Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of this long entitled play, by young British playwright Nick Payne, but festering throughout our complex society. Dysfunctional families, people obsessed with the carbon footprints we each leave on this planet, too busy, too uncaring to see the obvious failings of our words or lack of; many of us sloshing around in a sea of despair, brought into focus by the reality with real water that frames the edge of the stage like a moat.
Anna (Annie Funke), a queen-size teen, is having social problems at school, being bullied, and has a lack of help and support at home because her father George (Brian F. O’Bryne), an academic, is immersed in his world of saving the environment (everything is bad for it) and mother Fiona (Michelle Gomez) happens to work at her school and is disliked. They are preoccupied with everything but their daughter, their marriage also suffering.
Along comes Uncle Terry (George’s brother) who isn’t exactly a model of anything much to look up to other than his innate compassion for Anna. Terry, played by film star Jake Gyllenhaal, in this New York off-Broadway stage debut, transfers beautifully from the screen. He’s angry, messy and fits right into the spiraling downward dysfunctionalism and can’t express a word or phrase unless it’s preceded by F’n this or F’n that. But, like two peas in a pod, he and Anna bond.
The story has been told, over and over again but never like director Michael Longhurst’s interpretation, who puts his indelible stamp on it by creating the havoc visually. All the furniture pieces (set design by the imaginativeBeowulf Boritt), is piled up into the center of the stage, the edge of the stage filled with water (the opening segment, a waterfall). As the scenes unfold in this 95 minute, no-intermission production, the actors pull out the needed items – chairs, tables, a refrigerator – and when they’re finished they toss them into the moat.
Payne’s dialogue is fragmented, contemporary and reaching. It’s obvious this young playwright has much to say and offer and given director Longhurst’s ability to tell the story in this unique setting, brings depth and is surely a conversation piece for a long time to come.
As the water overflows in the tub while Anna is bathing and making a suicide attempt, the visualization of the metaphor gives credence to how we are all drowning, in one way or another.
“If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” is thought provoking with A+ performances by this 4-person cast. It continues thru November 25th at the Laura Pels Theatre, West 46th Street, NYC