By: Sandi Durell
After living in Brooklyn for 18 years, Lola (Kathryn Grody) and Max (Mark Blum) finally get to escape to retirement in Florida – to a condo not quite ready – arriving in the middle of the night instead to spend a couple of days in a model studio (where everything is just pasted down, fake, an empty box for a TV, a frig that doesn’t work).
This is just the beginning of Primary Stages’ production of Donald Marguilies’ remarkable dark comedy that quickly weaves its way from opening with light comic touches to the realities of what it’s like to keep running away from yourself, your past, your dreams, your own individual torture. Marguilies’ other recent prominent plays include “Time Stands Still” and “Dinner With Friends.”
Lola and Max are holocaust survivors, they speak with accents and occasionally in German & Yiddish. Yes, they escaped (not only from a concentration camp), but continue in their attempts to escape from a mentally disturbed daughter who is ungainly obese, Debby (Diane Davis), who follows them to Florida. She is uncontrollable (having stopped taking her meds) as she rants, screams and taunts her father, groveling in a box of Sugar Oats cereal, stuffing herself incessantly. Her homeless teenage boyfriend Neil (Hubert Point-du Jour) follows, also mentally handicapped, pulling up items that are pasted down around the apartment as he laughs. The two rush into the bathroom to have sex as Lola and Max are left to listen.
Max sleeps, he dreams of their child, Deborah, who died in the camp – imagining her grown, beautiful, perfect – desperately missing what she might have been.
Davis is in and out of her fat suit several times to enact the dual roles as Debby and Deborah and is brilliant as she captures each, especially the horrors of mental illness. Grody and Blum embody the feeling of a couple beaten down by life’s circumstances.
Evan Cabnet’s direction is flawless. The scenic design of an 80s style Florida condo comes to life in every detail (wicker furniture and all) in Lauren Helpern’s hands, aided by Ketih Parham’s wonderful lighting.
You will leave the 59e59 Theaters feeling uneasy because this is an important play that rivets the emotion and imagination. Thru November 1st (212) 279-4200, 59e59.org.
*Photos: James Leynse