Look After You
nytheatre.com review by Dan Kitrosser
August 16, 2009
"People feel fine. They come home. And then they drop dead." This is what Lucy says to her younger sister, Hannah, who has just recovered from a head injury, in Louise Flory's new thought-provoking drama Look After You, playing at the Soho Playhouse in this year's FringeNYC Festival. The fact that Hannah has made almost a complete recovery (save some pains from a surgical scar and some short term memory loss) is not cause for celebration, but rather compounds the anxieties, fears, and insecurities of both her doting workaholic sister, Lucy, and her boyfriend, Jake. As Hannah tries to piece together her life, Jake is sweating through his: a looming deadline for his non-fiction book about the Sherpas of Mt. Everest and the guilt of having proposed to Hannah before her accident and not reminding her of it afterwards weigh heavily on his ecclesiastical soul. Fear and indecision are the monsters that haunt Jake in this play, but as Jake's all-knowing bartender friend Paul says to him, quite eloquently, "Pick a life or the world will pick one for you. And most of the time, the world is wrong."
The unit set of Hannah and Jake's apartment is where most of the action takes place, but occasionally we go to a bar, to a hospital room, to a basketball court, all while the apartment is dimly lit in the background. Thanks to David Stallings's pointed direction and Dan Gallagher's unobtrusive lighting design, we are always aware of Hannah's apartment. Like the characters in the play, we can never fully leave the stress of Hannah's situation and it hovers over every scene.
While the premise is fairly grim, there is real life and excitement in the supporting players. Adi Kurtchik, as Lucy, Hannah's sharp-tongued sister, pounds on stage with a velocity to be reckoned with. And dressed fabulously and differently in each appearance, you can tell costume designer Vin Victorio had fun with her belts, chemises, and ruffled jackets. As Paul, a bartender with many a life lesson, Lowell Byers glides on stage with ease—so comfortable is he on the stage, you can understand why Hannah and Jake open up to him time and time again.
Both Louise Flory (as Hannah) and Jason Altman (as Jake) push through their scenes with earnest hopefulness and distress, but it is inside their relationship where the play feels too easy. Resolutions between characters happen offstage, which means that we don't get to actually see them change and grow. Look After You moves at a steady pace with some great performances and smart dialogue, but while it wrestles with some tough issues, at key points, it stops fighting.