by Susan Hasho
Loose Ends by Michael Weller is a play in eight scenes. It’s a look at young people coming of age in the ‘70s. The opening scene is on a beach in Bali with a couple Paul and Susan chatting aimlessly. This leads to sex and a relationship develops –more an aimless let’s see what happens kind of a thing. Susan stays in Bali with her airy friend Janice. But somehow Susan hooks up with Paul again and they start living together and that leads to marriage. Paul ends up being a film editor, Susan a photographer. Susan is ambitious, Paul not so much. They visit friends of Paul’s in New Hampshire. Doug is a stoner building a house with his girlfriend Maraya and they have a child, a trailer and like living in the woods.
Susan meets Paul’s brother Ben an ambitious guy in securities, successful. Paul doesn’t much like him and constantly puts his success down. All along the way people come and go and connect like bumper cars almost accidentally. Janice comes to visit Susan with her boyfriend Russell a tuned in sort of dropped out guru guy clearly in charge of Janice.
Several years into their relationship, at a picnic in Central Park, Doug wants to know if they are going to have children. Susan is working in New York, doesn’t want to go back to Boston. She wants children, just not now. Doug doesn’t see the fairness of his moving to New York. When you see them two years later in New York, Paul is going to make a feature film and Susan’s boss Lawrence is on his way. Paul leaves for the airport leaving Susan and Selina, Paul’s assistant, and Susan’s friend, to chat on the sofa. And this leaves Susan free to ask Selina’s opinion about whether she should have an abortion.
The last scenes of this somewhat meandering play are brilliant. Susan is trying to get away with what she wants in her life. Her marriage is all “babe” and flying in and out of town–until it isn’t. Once this play really wakes up, it becomes risky. And these actors are up for that. There is an inconsistent level of performance but the actors make a journey together that’s emotionally touching when it counts. And it counts in the second to last scene of the play on the terrace of Susan and Paul’s apartment on Central Park West. It’s Susan’s birthday. Paul’s brother Ben is there, and Janice and her husband Phil. After jovial cocktail chatter, Paul brings out Susan’s present, an antique Chinese container for Susan’s aborted child’s ashes.
The last scene of the play takes place in a cabin in New Hampshire. Paul and Susan have had sex. But they are no longer together. He wants her to stay on with him but she has a date. And she leaves him to go when her date pulls up outside the cabin in his car. Paul is left alone. Weller does not tie this play up in tidy ribbons. He leaves us surprised and a bit lost—a lot like the ‘70s.
Loren Bidner as Paul and Sarah Mae Vink as Susan work very well together. They establish a rhythm that seems improvisational and when it breaks apart the risk is palpable and dramatically satisfying. Maggie Alexander as Maraya develops into a steading force. Jason Asher as Paul’s brother is a great mixture of truly enthusiastic and unwittingly annoying. Hui-Shan Yong as friend Selina surprises by showing concern and irritation in equal measure. Ivan Sandomire as guru Russell underplays the humor in his character beautifully. Gus Solomons, Jr. as Susan’s boss is a bit over the top but ultimately a fresh breeze. Melanie Glancy as friend Janice should trust her inner stupid and Erik Endsley as Doug can also relax into his role and trust the humor. Gregory Barone as Phil and Teruaki Akai as the Balinese Fisherman are both great.
The director Terry Schreiber deserves kudos for fulfilling the slowly developing gift of this play and for guiding his actors on this surprisingly funny and rocky road.
Terry Schreiber Studio, www.TSchreiber.org or 212-353-3101 for tickets. Runs until April 15, 2017