nytheatre.com review by Don Jordan
August 22, 2009
Union Squared, a new play by David S. Singer and directed by Diana Basmajian, tells the story of Rachel (Annie Meisels) and Brad (Levi Sochet), a couple who find themselves on the downside of marriage—no sex, dwindling bank account, lack of communication, and—surprise!—adultery. The twists here are that Rachel finds out about Brad's affair with Shannon (Carlina Ferrari) via a text message that goes to her instead of to Shannon, and that Brad's mother, Sophie (Anita Keal), has decided to bequeath him the family fortune immediately as opposed to after her death. Each character seems to also have another hang-up, like Brad's gambling, Shannon's alcoholism, and Rachel's lack of self esteem. There are a few more surprise plot points to be considered, but those are better left unspoiled.
To keep this winding narrative efficiently coordinated, Basmajian and her team of costume designer Candice Thompson, lighting designer Daniel Ordower, and sound designer Phil Hartley have made a concerted effort to create an environment where locations and appropriate dress are cleanly presented and recognizable when we return in later scenes. Although no set designer is credited in the program, props coordinator Betsy Sanders seems to have taken on a lion's share of the work in helping make each location a reality. However, with what felt like nearly a dozen scene transitions with the audience left waiting in the darkness, the addition of a set designer might have eased this process and helped the production establish a rhythm.
Without a doubt, Union Squared is an enjoyable, light-hearted affair—about affairs—where Singer and Basmajian have done a credible job of telling the story in a fun way without much clutter. All four actors do a fine job to maintain a sense of levity while knowing that more difficult moments are on their way, and Meisels stands out among them in her consistency and range. Overall, the play seems to be at its best when its characters are allowed to unabashedly attack each other for the harms done against them and at its most superficial when attempting to manage deeper, more difficult emotional confrontations.
Nevertheless, the entire team should be commended for performing such a nascent work in this performance environment, ably working through the bumpy and awkward spots that come before a play can take on a life of its own over time.