by Michael Bracken
Rachel (playwright Domenica Feraud) is home for the weekend, and everyone is walking on eggshells. Well, not quite everyone. Her brother, Brody (a fearlessly direct Jake Ryan Lozano), is indifferent bordering on resentful. But Mom, Joan (Florencia Lozano), and Dad, Peter (Michael Hayden), are thoroughly determined that every detail be perfect for Rachel’s test weekend with them. Or at least they say they are, as they quibble with each other as to who should do what, when and how.
What’s being tested is Rachel’s ability to function outside the confines of the treatment center for eating disorders, where she’s spent the last four months. And while Rachel is a 4.0 student at Yale, she doesn’t fare quite as well on this exam. Her parents do even worse. The play Rinse, Repeat follows suit.
In a program note, Feraud says her goal is to create a layered and nuanced piece of theater. But the two female characters at the center of the drama are drawn in primary colors only. Rachel is a victim. Earnest and well-meaning, she’s trying her best, but she can’t quite do it on her own. You feel for her – she’s got a heavy load – but you wish she and/or the playwright wouldn’t take the easy route of blaming her family generally and Joan in particular.
Joan is a partner in a presumably prestigious law firm, with unfettered ambition for both herself and her daughter. She’s curvy yet trim, with clothes that evoke Barbie as jurist. They’re flattering yet hardly the stuff of a successful law partner in the real world. (Costume design by Nicole Slaven.) We eventually find out that Joan has her own eating issues.
Joan complains ironically that she always gets cast as the heavy. The irony is self-fulfilling: she is the heavy. First-generation American of Latino parents – a theme that’s mentioned but not developed – she puts work before family, with predictably dire results. Her interaction with Rachel is sometimes nagging, sometimes confrontational, always devoid of understanding. She wants Rachel to be a lawyer. Rachel’s on board; she does what’s expected. But she really wants to be a writer.
Peter’s not much better, but he’s a little bit harder to pin down. A trust fund baby whose fund went to pay for Joan’s fertility treatment, he’s a builder in need of clients and has been, perhaps still is, unfaithful. He’s slightly less toxic than his wife and has less of an agenda. He talks a good game, but he’s light on action.
Director Kate Hopkins does little to rein in the play’s melodramatic tendencies; in fact, she seems to go with them. Brittany Vasta’s single set design is efficient and attractive, perfectly appropriate as the somewhat modern kitchen of a Greenwich, Connecticut home. The downstage counter’s doubling as Rachels’s bed works surprisingly well within the three-quarters-in-the-round playing space.
Feraud, having created the character of Rachel on paper, inhabits her fully onstage. Rachel is someone she knows intimately and understands perhaps better than she would like. Portia is effective as Brenda, a social worker type who appears in Rachel’s dreams and visits the house at the end of the weekend.
Florencia Lozano has the daunting task of breathing human life into Joan. She’s OK in the early innings, but when Joan waxes histrionic, and Joan does wax histrionic, she’s understandably less than fully invested in Joan’s pronouncements. Hayden never brings Peter completely into focus, but neither does the playwright.
Photos: Jenny Anderson
Through Sunday, August 17th, at the The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street). http://www.rinserepeatplay.com/. 90 minutes with no intermission.