by: Alix Cohen
Welcome to the goodbye party. We gather in a denuded Park Slope apartment to send one of our own off into the wider world. At thirty something, Jason (Andrew Schwartz) has traded his hobbled dreams as an actor for a teaching job in Columbus Ohio. Despite predictable conflict, it’s time to be pragmatic and move on. His wife Michelle (Susan Louise O’Connor), having just authored her first book, will stay with friends George (David Delgrosso), a wry actor and former schoolmate, and his wife Franny (Margurite Stimpson) to aid the book’s publicity before joining Jason. Or such is the premise. It’s clear from the get-go that things are prickly concerning the move.
Also invited are ex-classmates Charlie (Matthew Trumbull), a sweet, ironic actor/temp and Nicole (Moira Stone), caustically surprised at her own motherhood, whose husband is absent. (Nicole is a cipher. Until otherwise informed, I thought she was gay, nor is any occupation mentioned.) There’s Leanna (Sarah K. Lippmann), a discouraged writer, now studying interior decoration and her beau Harry (Jay Leibowitz), a chef/restaurateur who leads Jason into believing the theme of his establishment- there must be a theme- is “terrified animals,” whose fear before being killed “sort of seasons them.” And lastly, the young, Dawn (Rebecca Gray Davis) a children’s museum employee whose connection to anyone present is never explained and her date Sanjeet (Imran Sheikh). A believable cross-section.
Loosened by alcohol, painfully adjusted expectations and patched egos are tossed like salad. Jason, George declares, “is severing all ties, disavowing…things of this place, including us … strollers…Bloomberg…trust fund babies… heirloom anything…people who talk about beer like it’s wine…” Feelings of betrayal coupled with anxiety about his own future erupt. How can Jason give up while George and Charlie, in come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. (Shakespeare) Within wide ranging dialogue, signs of the difference in Michelle and Jason’s dreams become increasingly apparent. Discovery is skillfully embedded.
Leaving Brooklyn is subtitled The Dinner Party Play. As a slice of life study, it’s successful. Playwright Matthew Freeman has a terrific ear for observation and flow, here peppered with quick, dry humor. Conversation is highly naturalistic. Main characters read both true and familiar. Because everything is building to a single undramatic revelation, however, the play would benefit from editing by half an hour and omitting the young couple who add little texture or information. Despite obvious writing aptitude, time strains patience.
This is exacerbated by physically static direction. Though Matthew Freeman is adept at pacing, focus and characterization, he leaves a large company mostly sitting in place for over two hours. When Nicole spends time texting in the background, separation and action are so unique, one expects outcome; there is none.
The ensemble is well cast for both type and talent.
Susan Louise O’Connor and Andrew Schwartz work wonderfully as our main couple projecting both unsettling division and underlying love. The actors come to performance with manifested back story and play off one another with nuance. Michelle’s disillusionment is palpable; Jason’s barely repressed despair made empathetic.
David Delgrosso paints George so clearly we imagine his verbal evisceration technique running parallel to diminished hopes and increased alcohol. Sniping at Jason before letting fly, the actor imbues his characterization with an angry pilot light obscured by nonchalance.
Matthew Trumbull offers an interesting dichotomy in Charlie by pairing awkward physicality with a sharp, watchful mind.
Jay Liebowitz (Harry) shrugs his role with utter authenticity bringing the low key character to life.
Of particular note is splendid Costume Design by Caroline Berti. Attire is so vividly an extension of each personality, players might be wearing signboards. The sole exception, Charlie, shows his subjugated outlaw tendencies in a purple shirt and socks- a wonderful conceit.
*Photos by Kyle Ancowitz
Theater Accident in association with Blue Coyote Theater Group present:
Why We Left Brooklyn by Matthew Freeman
Directed by Kyle Ancowitz
Fourth Street Theater
83 East 4th Street
Through September 29