NY Theater Review by Sandi Durell
One non-descript motel room, ten actors, five stories all converge in the one set that is A.R. Gurney’s “The Wayside Motor Inn” (originally premiering in 1977), currently at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater at the Pershing Square Signature Theater, that deals with everyday people in life situations addressing aging, sickness, father-son rebellion, young love and sexual indecision, loneliness, deceit and a vicious shattering marriage. In what is supposedly five different rooms, the uber-talented actors are all engaged with each other in the same space, picking up their own lines, as others drop, in their individual sagas. It’s dizzying following the stories and mesmerizing at the same time. You just learn to keep up!
The play takes place in Boston in a shabby styled 70s (Andrew Lieberman design) brown and green room, two double beds, a sink outside leading to a bathroom door, a writing desk, TV and chairs.
The sleazy married salesman, Quincy Dunn-Baker can’t wait to prey on his next female who, in this case, happens to be the waitress delivering some food (a cosmically attuned gamma ray specialist who tells him everything is toxic – the humorous Jenn Lyon). The older couple Lizbeth MacKay and Jon DeVries have come to visit a daughter and new baby in the area and are dealing with Frank’s disinterest, irritability and chest pains as he repeats “I just want someone to listen to my heart.” Yes, don’t we all!
Marc Kudisch only wants his son Will Pullen to get into Harvard (they are there for his interview) and wear the pink shirt he’s bought, as he tries to bully him into submission while Will has other thoughts of taking a year off and work as a mechanic. It’s a battle.
Young college lovers, David McElwee and Ismenia Mendes, are wrestling with their first time away together so they could have sex. But uncertainty creeps into the mix as she winds up reading Jane Eyre, he more interested in The Joy of Sex. And a marriage on the rocks becomes a vitriolic display of hatred as Kelly AuCoin and Rebecca Henderson deal with what’s mine, what’s yours.
The concentration of the individual performers in the short conversations each has with their given partner is quite remarkable for which major respect and praise is given, not only to the fine actors, but to director Lila Neugebauer.
Life – a series of frustrations, needs and unmet desires vividly portrayed in “The Wayside Motor Inn” thru Sept . 28th. Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street – 212 244-7529 www.signaturetheatre.org running time: 2 hours with intermission
*Photos: Joan Marcus