Realism and Jump!
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
April 18, 2007
Realism, the new play by Anthony Neilson, shows more than I want to see, and at 80 minutes, is 75 minutes too long. The fault is several-fold: there’s no real plot; the humor, if you want to call it that, is sophomoric; and the focus is to address as many politically incorrect subjects as possible: homophobia, racism, the handicapped, defecating on stage, pulling objects out of a toilet, and so much more. All these subjects are random thoughts or dream sequences played out on stage—an interesting concept that some may find hilarious. For my part, I prefer the bathroom door closed and a play with some semblance of a plot.
The loose plot hinges on Stuart, who has broken off with his girlfriend, Angie, because of what their relationship could become, although he still loves her. It is Sunday, his day off, and the play opens with Stuart sleeping on the living room sofa. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long. Reality and nightmares intervene. His loud, belligerent friend, Paul, tries to lure him to the baseball field, his girlfriend makes an appearance on the toilet, his alter ego taunts him, chores such as laundry beckon, sales calls awaken him, and his mother heckles.
Directed by Ari Edelson, the play borders on the absurd, but that would indicate some gravitas or at least some meaning deeper than the insensitivity of friends and family on a man’s day off. But Neilson provides characters that no one can love. They nag, whine, manipulate, and harass. These are characters that delight in being tasteless. Worse, they are not entertaining.
It’s hard to know if the acting is any good. As Stuart, Stephen Plunkett clomps around the stage—besieged and beleaguered—in his sandals and robe. In a rare piece of clever staging, Kathryn Rossetter, in a fitted red sheath, pops out of a washing machine to chide her son. Jordan Gelber delivers the annoying friend, Paul. Bree Elrod, Ali Marsh, Herbert Rubens, and Tim Spears round out the cast of eccentric characters. There is one entertaining scene in which three characters jump out singing karaoke-style to Nell Carter, but it is too short. The most professional part is the lighting, designed by Ben Stanton, and the sound by Bart Fasbender. Sets and costumes are by Antje Ellermann and Oana Botez-Ban, respectively.
Theatre can accomplish a number of missions: it can entertain, it can teach, it can provoke. What Neilson and his producing company The Exchange had in mind went over my head and, as far as I could tell, those of the other audience members. It is the first show I have ever attended where there was no applause and where the actors did not seem to expect any.