A Serious Person and Then Some

nytheatre.com review by Ed Malin
July 16, 2013

Have you ever been on a date with a cannibal, or a cat, or a cable guy?  John Doble's collection of three plays centers on how (very) different people communicate. The plays (A Serious Person, Tatyana and the Cable Guy, and Coffee House, Greenwich Village) have appeared recently at such venues as Manhattan Rep and Midwinter Madness New Play Festival, and appear here in nicely heightened dramatic form.

In A Serious Person, a Man (Adam Levinthal) is meeting a Woman (Loralee Tyson) for a blind date arranged through LetsHaveALatte.com  The encounter is not expected to go anywhere, and the Woman is peculiar and aggressive enough to succeed at this.  She goes through a non-stop list of questions--taking notes on the man's response--about things like Evolution, the Catholic Church, and his voting record.  It must be noted that she is quite charming as she does this, and his lack of fear makes it a lot easier for them to connect.  Religion is slammed, or at least the eucharist is added to a list of bizarre social habits(such as calling a lover "honey) that she classifies as cannibalistic.  The date ends well, which, the author suggests, is what happens when a balanced, patient person meets an impatient, unbalanced person.  At least, it happened in this play....

Tatyana and the cable guy is a monologue delivered by a Russian-American woman (Jessica Ayers) to her friend while they are outside smoking. Tayana is more than talkative enough to carry this amusing tale.  Why don't Americans smoke the way Russians do?  Is that a bad thing? Anyway, Tatyana recently had a guy come and install cable, which started a culture clash.  Why do you want to watch CNN, that's Democrat propaganda...as opposed to Fox News, which is Republican propaganda.  Also amusing is the cable guy's assumption that Tatyana is a Communist when she considers herself a Socialist, and the cable guy, like many Americans, doesn't know the difference.  They proceed to hit it off in an interesting way.

Coffee House, Greenwich Village is the story of a somewhat guarded blind date between Jack (Nicholas J. Pearson) and Pamela (Elizabeth Dilley).  Jack is a vigorous young man who likes fishing and happens to be carrying a knife that he will use to clean fish.  Pamela is a mysterious, exotic, unbalanced divorcee who once shoplifted from Saks.  She is prone to flights of fancy, or, as she puts it, women are like cats.  Their surly waiter (Adam Levinthal) doesn't know how much trouble he would be in if Jack and Pamela' fantasies came true.  It's an impressive, brutal, well-timed ending.  Or is it a beginning?

Dating.  Sometimes it's a waste of time, but it does teach you things.  Why, some time ago I went on a date with a woman who firmly believed she could have a conversation with my roommate's cat.  That's why I don't think this well-acted evening is so bizarre.  Perhaps all the men are decently behaved and all the women are demons of the virago kind.  Is it sexist, or is it funny? This production might not be something to enjoy on an actual date, but I thought there were many opportunities for the characters and the audience to ask, "what do I want out of life?"  Director Olivia Harris has raised the stakes and brought in a  degree of sympathy for these characters, who partly cling to their ideologies.  Loralee Tyson and Elizabeth Dilley were very convincing as the datees of the evening.

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