The Chaos Theories
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
November 2, 2007
The Chaos Theories, written by Alexander Dinelaris, is 90 minutes of tightly directed (by Dinelaris and Stewart M. Schulman), very well-performed dark comedy. The play is really a series of vignettes done in a smooth drawing-room style with characters coming in and out of a restaurant, in this case a beautiful, chic and inviting set designed by Tema L. Staig. Their conversations and troubles are constantly watchable and flow right into each other. The comedy here is hilarious and the cast are incredibly adept at working with each other, a very strong team.
The setup, according to the press release, is that it's the coldest night of the year inside the hottest restaurant in New York City, and all hell is about to break loose. Now the truth is, the show itself is a lighter version of that concept.
For example, we have an angry couple quarreling with the woman repeating that she just wants some rigatoni, meanwhile a homeless person mumbles frantically to herself on the side; a businesswoman rants aggressively on her cell phone, interspersing jabs with the plucky, snide waiter; a celebrity flirts with a journalist and attempts to seduce her; a Hollywood agent (played by Allison Fraser, who channels a little Eileen Brennan in this wacky, terrific performance) takes advantage of a new screenwriter; and a wonderfully long self-indulgent rant about the minutiae of a woman's problems of the day (delivered by Amanda Mantovani) to her friend at the restaurant. This particular rant is so evocative of what many of us have put up with at some point that it received a round of audience applause. This entire setup is very much an homage what may be going on in our city at any given moment.
Everything here is done rapid-fire, though without ever becoming overwhelming or annoying. Some funnies include: "Theater's dead! What—do you think people are going to sit in a second floor hole of a theater and listen to you complain about society?" "Can you see that I am in a meeting?...Good, then be a mensch and fuck off."
What I might have done without are the opening and closing scenes. The opening scene is between two characters who either should be setting the tone for the rest of the play, or should become the two main characters of the play, and they don't. The ending scene puts a way-too-dark cast on the entire thing, as though all of a sudden the small moments of human foible we have just been witnessing should be seen in a more cynical light. This practically ruined the whole evening for me. The basic play itself, everything in the restaurant, stands fine on its own without any attempt at setting it up or buttoning it. Overall, a smart, funny, sharp evening out.