nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
May 15, 2011
The fears of impending fatherhood are explored in Jonathan Marc Sherman’s charming though overly talkative new comedy Knickerbocker, a Public Lab production directed by Pippin Parker.
Knickerbocker is set entirely within the restaurant of the same name, located on University Place (realistically rendered by set designer Peter Ksander). It is the favorite haunt of Jerry (Alexander Chaplin), a 40-something neurotic Jewish New Yorker whose wife Pauline (Mia Barron) is carrying their first child. As the months tick by from April to October, Pauline grows more and more pregnant and Jerry meets, one by one, with all of the important people in his life and explores memories of the past and present as he tries to prepare for the big day.
It takes skill to make a play that is entirely confined to a booth seem interesting, and there is considerable skill in Parker’s staging, the performances by the 7-member cast, and in Sherman’s oft-delightful script. While some of the vignettes are strained, or continue a few minutes longer than they should, the dialogue and performances are natural, convincing, and all contribute to Jerry’s growth.
The most affecting conversation is between Jerry and his father Raymond (Bob Dishy), where the two actors do an excellent job at conveying the unbreakable bond between a father and son. Two scenes, one between Jerry and best friend Chester (Zak Orth), the other between Jerry and ex-girlfriend Tara (Christina Kirk), are particularly forced, though well-acted. Barron and Ben Shenkman, as Jerry’s other best friend, are nicely understated. And Chaplin manages to convey a great deal through a series of vocal inflections and facial expressions.
While Knickerbocker isn’t for everyone (some will no doubt be bored by the lack of movement), it is a perfectly pleasant and well-meaning meditation on the fears and excitement leading up to a life that is about to drastically change.