A Light Lunch
nytheatre.com review by Joshua Chase Gold
December 18, 2008
A Light Lunch, now having its world premiere at the Flea Theatre, holds true to playwright A.R. Gurney's usual style—charming, fun, and complex. Perhaps a bit too complex at times.
A Light Lunch tells the story of an ambitious young attorney from Texas (Beth Hoyt), who invites A.R. Gurney's literary agent, Gary (Tom Lipinski), to lunch. Throughout the course of the play, Hoyt's character attempts to convince Gary to sell her anonymous client A.R. Gurney's newest play. We quickly learn that the unfinished, unpublished manuscript deals with the life of George W. Bush. As the evening unfolds, the two, along with their waitress Viola and her boyfriend, debate the life and presidency of Bush while trying to arrive at an appropriate ending for Gurney's play.
The performances by the Bats, the Flea's young resident company, are all well thought out and fresh. The pushy Jersey waitress, played by Havilah Brewster, is a standout and provides a constant flow of humor through the evening. John Russo, who plays Brewster's boyfriend, is a little less convincing in his role as the arrogant and theatrical college professor. Hoyt and Lipinski compliment each other well on stage, but it is Lipinski who shines.
A play that takes place in a restaurant with a table and a few chairs presents its own set of challenges. Director Jim Simpson handles the flow of traffic well and does a nice job of keeping the sometimes bogged-down script moving.
The problem with A Light Lunch is the script itself. Often times self-indulgent (with plenty of references to Gurney and Simpson themselves) I left the theatre thinking, "so what?" For such a wordy play with so many convicting opinions, Gurney ultimately never says anything. There is really no pay off. Though there are plenty of clever moments and funny impersonations (Lipinski's are wonderful) the play eventually gets so clever it loses the audience.
I'm not quite sure what Gurney is trying to say about Bush or our country's current state, but I do know I laughed a lot. And I know the Bats are most definitely a talented group of young artists.