NY Theater Review by Susan Hasho
You don’t want to assume you know what’s going to happen in the play Playing with Grownups, or what’s going to happen in this production; because what seems modern, what seems familiar will never measure up to the experience of seeing this show. On the face of it, it is a chamber piece with four actors in a living room about contemporary life—couple with a new baby, new mother on overwhelm. But because of the sharply expressed, uncensored emotional life of the writing, by Hannah Patterson, and the clarity and conviction of the direction by Hannah Edinow, the brilliant actors lead us through a journey, unsuspecting of the upcoming gash in their universe until we hit it with them. The relief of hearing a truth so clearly expressed and realized, encapsulates the power of live theater.
Trudi Jackson plays Joanna the new mother. Step by step on seemingly unsteady footing, the exacting detail of her performance allows her to at once seem familiar and frightening and entertainingly sardonic. Mark Rice-Oxley is her husband Robert. He is a sweet, ingratiating fellow, blind to his wife’s dilemma; and then further on, is able to confront head on the immorality he perceives, only to come back to a lovely and loving simplicity to be the steady center of this world—subtle journey and fully realized. Alan Cox, as Jake, is an apparently comfortable, slouchy reprobate. But as with all the performances in this production, Mr. Cox brings a total and complex portrait to the play. And, Daisy Hughes, as the young girlfriend of the middle-aged Jake, manages to teeter quite skillfully on the edge of charming innocence and canny self-interest.
As a whole, the cast has created such a detailed and true connection with each other, that all of the humor in the play successfully lands in perfect balance with the sadness. If Playing with Grownups can be called a chamber piece, the synthesis of playwright, director and actors are so beautifully in sync that the play moves to the height it is brilliant enough to climb.
The performance schedule is Tuesday–Thursday at 7:15pm; Friday at 8:15pm; Saturday at 2:15pm and 8:15pm; and Sunday at 3:15pm and 7:15pm. Performances are at 59e59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets are $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org.