Explore theMUMBLINGS in greater depth on Indie Theater Now.
nytheatre.com review by Stephen Cedars
August 13, 2013
A scene from theMUMBLINGS
Dan Kitrosser's theMUMBLINGS is on its surface a simple play that tells a simple story: a gay man working as a children's entertainer (Allen) and a sexually-repressed anthropologist (Jodie) have lived for several years in a marriage of convenience, and they explain to us how and why. Focused around only the two actors, the play requires only a simple quasi-unit set that allows their narrative storytelling to almost exclusively drive the story.
And yet Kitrosser has crafted a remarkably complex work, largely aided by director Charles Foster Cohen's taut pacing and the tour-de-force performances of Keith Foster and Lynne Rosenberg. The first impressive aspect is what the structure demands of the actors. As they attempt to explain their wonderfully perverse relationship, each actor embodies a whole roster of other characters who helped shape their lives. This requires several ridiculous turns – Foster as a super ditzy faux-intellectual college chick, or Rosenberg as a coked-up gigolo, as examples – but it's a testament to the performances that both actors easily balance such broadness with much more nuanced characterization throughout. Transitions between these personas are so fluid that we're often left scrambling to keep up.
That speed allows all involved to accomplish even more impressive feats. The script moves a mile-a-minute, not only in its transitions from scene to scene, but also from line to line. Kitrosser's balance of comedy and pathos is such that the jokes often zip through a scene without halting its momentum, suggesting that the couple's relationship is neither pitiable nor comic, but simply something that two people with difficult pasts have found suitable to their needs.
And that's what most impressive of all. Even though the story and theatricality are extremely focused, each character exhibits a dynamic and evocative landscape of contradictions, complications, and mysteries easier to articulate than to answer. It's a truism that one never knows what any couple's relationship is like in private – but what this play reminds us is that we really don't know anything about anyone. When the play starts, it's easy to think we understand the dynamic at play, but with each revelation of the characters' past, we're both more informed and yet less certain of what defines these people.
If anything is missing, it's perhaps a better understanding of the present moment in which Allen and Jodie live. So much about their pasts is examined, but there are only glimpses of how they manage their day-to-day, which is important in understanding the central conflict that provokes them into sharing their stories in the first place. But then again, maybe that's the point – even if we did learn more, all we'd have are more questions. That the team behind theMUMBLINGS can present such ideas in the guise of a rollicking and nuanced comedy is a feat worth recognizing, and most certainly worth checking out.