No-Fault: A tale about the Big D in the Big Apple
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 22, 2011
No-Fault, Christie Perfetti's new play about a woman getting through a divorce, is an interesting and ambitious hour of theater. It's entertaining much of the time, and charmingly insightful in places. It does, though, feel pitched toward an audience not unlike its protagonist: I suspect I'd have found more in it to hang onto if I were a young female New Yorker recovering from the (apparently) out-of-the-blue desertion by my husband.
The play uses an episodic structure to tell the story of our never-named heroine, who breaks the fourth wall all the time to narrate about a year of her life to us. It begins on the subway—a frequently depicted but never particularly utilized emblem of NYC—and then takes us to a variety of familiar locations. We eavesdrop on the Woman's therapy sessions, with a group of other divorcees or divorcees-to-be; we follow her to her local diner, where a heavily moustachioed waiter of uncertain origin flirts with/nourishes her in this time of need; we sit in on quiet chats with her priest; and we hear her interact, over the phone, with her very loving, caring parents. I was particularly invested in her relationship with her Dad, who is given wonderful complexity and dimension by Perfetti and actor Rich Fromm; their couple of conversations are, for me, the emotional high points of the play.
The Woman goes through the stages of grief—denial, sadness, anger, and so on; I don't think I'm giving too much away to say that she arrives at acceptance by the end of the piece. I'd have liked the life lessons to feel more universal; as I said at the beginning, the show seems very stuck in its particular circumstance. This is despite the fact that we are given almost no information about the facts of this circumstance: who was this woman's husband? why did he leave? Questions go unanswered, and I think this lack of specificity contributes to a lack of universality somehow.
The chorus of seven take on many many roles, quickly and vividly; I could have done without Fromm's broad and unnecessary gay stereotype as the Woman's Boss and Christopher Catalano's equally broad vaudeville-comic foreign waiter. In the central role of the Woman is Matilda Szydagis, who projects empathy and intelligence but unfortunately had vocal problems consistently during the play. From the third row of the relatively small Kraine Theater (admittedly competing with a noisy air conditioner), she was often inaudible, rendering parts of her speeches (and her character's arc) unintelligible.
Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable play, with engaging performances, directed with energy and verve by Bryn Boice. I'd be excited to see another work by Perfetti, especially one that develops a set of more specific relationships, such as the very rich one between father and daughter in this play.