This Is Murphy's Law
nytheatre.com review by Paul Hagen
August 15, 2004
I’ll admit it. I expected comedy. From a show about everything that could possibly go wrong actually going wrong?—doesn’t that spell hijinx? In the end, no, not so much. There are a few bright spots in This Is Murphy's Law—jokes that actually hit the mark, situations that aren’t entirely cliche—but the majority of the show is a portrait of suffering so pointlessly depressing that it ultimately becomes annoying.
Jared Irwin plays protagonist Peter with what seems like optimism, an odd choice for a character who spends the play touting the truth of Murphy’s Law and watching his life spiral down the toilet. David Valento turned in my favorite performance of the evening as the amusing foreign entomologist-turned-plumber Dan Wilson, and Stephanie Polt as Peter’s unemployed neighbor proves an adequate sparring partner for him. Peter’s secretary is played by a woman who resembles Kirsten Dunst and tries very hard to make her character’s optimistic pabulum digestible (but whose name I do not know because the show had no programs and I didn’t catch her outside the theater). Ted White gives a big and blowsy performance as Peter’s misogynistic blowhard boss, but his latter turn as Peter’s aggravating doctor is more effective in its subtlety (i.e., not involving sexual molestation of golf equipment like the former.) Mandy Morgan plays Peter’s wife as a constantly-on-edge neurotic, which helps to distract from the her character’s general insipidity. Finally, poor Aaron Cook plays his put-upon-old-man-in-a-doctor’s-office-with-a-condition-worse-than-yours with an earnestness that makes you want to write a better part for him. In a better play.
Playwright Corby Ortmann might have done well to give the characters some arcs rather than setting them up as variations on pessimism and optimism and letting them vibrate against each other like water molecules in a Junior High diagram of steam. Director Liz Cody creates some lovely stage pictures, but I think someone forgot to tell her that, especially at FringeNYC, less is more and, yes, we could have figured out this scene was in a Doctor’s Office without the filing cabinet, the couch, the table, the chairs and the myriad other scenery that the actors spent ages dragging on and off.