by Meredith Ganzman
Like all families, the two portrayed in Manhattan Theatre Club’s new Richard Greenberg play, The Perplexed, directed by Lynne Meadow, have enough agida on the evening of their children’s wedding to fill even the biggest ballroom. Inside a Fifth Avenue apartment’s sophisticated library, designed by Santo Loquasto, tensions are teeming before Isabelle (Tess Frazer) and Caleb (JD Taylor) say “I do.”
But on the other side of the double doors, the party is pumping with disco music as guests wait for the happy couple. Too bad you’re on the wrong side of those doors, having been invited into a seemingly unending back and forth between formerly warring families. Trapped in their insufferable drama, you’ll likely be utterly baffled as to why you rsvp’d yes to this rather pointless play.
Other than the bride and groom, we meet the mother of the bride and city council member Evy (Margaret Colin), her husband Joseph (Frank Wood). There’s Caleb’s parents Natalie (Ilana Levine) and Ted (Gregg Edelman), who had a long-time falling out with Joseph’s father Berland; the unseen much disliked tycoon who owns the apartment and is playing host to the nuptials.
Then there’s Isabelle’s Uncle James (Patrick Breen), a one-time successful novelist. Her little brother Micah (Zane Pais) is a medical student and, oh yeah, does gay porn on the side. Cyrus (Eric William Morris) is a family friend who went from Wall Street Rabbi and now teacher. He’s officiating the ceremony, despite his unrequited love for Isabelle. Patricia (Anna Itty) is Berland’s Guyanese home-healthcare aide.
Unlike Greenberg’s supremely executed and beautifully emotional The Assembled Parties, The Perplexed is vapid, unrelatable and completely disingenuous. Little more is served up other than at best forced kibitzing and kvetching. Although, these families are far from convincing members of the tribe.
It’s likely you won’t want to spend any time at The Perplexed since that’s exactly how you’ll feel leaving the theater!
The Perplexed runs through March 29 at NY City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th Street. Running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes, with 1 intermission www.manhattantheatreclub.com