"Somewhere Fun" – really? By Sandi Durell
Don’t let the title mislead you. There’s really very little fun in Jenny Schwartz’ surreal new play (she wrote God’s Ear, 2008, Vineyard). You think that because you get some chuckles in Act I when the marvelous Kate Mulgrew, who plays Rosemary Rappaport, is relentless in her jabbering "all about me" wordy dialogue that perhaps this is a play that might evolve into something more. Well, unfortunately, the line soon to be spoken best describes my reaction "somebody shoot me," as 2 ½ hours of nonsensical absurdity unfolds.
What was the Vineyard Theatre thinking when it decided to mount this endless machine-gun, nonsensical chattering production? The theme is about loss, grief, love, regrets, anxieties, frustrations as one moves along in life. But it’s such a hodge-podge, that it all gets left behind as the audience scratches their heads trying to figure it out.
Three women, who became friends 35 years ago, meet again on a blustery afternoon: the unrelenting Rosemary, whose free flowing thoughts are endless, can’t talk about anything but herself, her estranged son Benjamin (Greg Keller), ex-husband and other gossip. She’s a realtor who, when trying to give her business card to various characters, finds it blown away in the wind (get it?). She utters some comical lines in the beginning which all become stagnant as the play progresses.
Rosemary meets her old friend Evelyn, who is in a wheelchair, in the opening scene. She also meets her friend Cecelia (a pleasing Mary Shultz), and when they go to lunch, Cece is busily playing with her IPhone, having met a man on the internet, as Rosemary realizes she’s reached the end of her glory days, asking "what’s the internet?" Her eventual demise is forthcoming – she melts – yes, she really does!
Later on, the top rate Kathleen Chalfant, who plays Evelyn a wealthy socialite, is lying in a hospital bed dying of anal cancer, repetitiously talking about her heart-shaped uterus and declares, "Everything happens for a reason, except anal cancer."
Evelyn is attended by her nurse, the pregnant, unwavering Lolita (Maria Elena Ramirez) and speaks to Lolita’s belly to unleash her taunts and frustrations. Her husband "T" (Richard Bekins) has written her off a long time ago. And then there’s Beatrice (Brooke Bloom), the older version of their daughter, whose face was bitten off by a dog, and whom Evelyn fails to acknowledge as present.
In the mix are a young Benjamin (Griffin Birney) and young Beatrice (Makenna Ballard).
This mash up of tedious dialogue and characters spewing thoughts and words, words, words, is more than any audience should have to endure over 2 ½ hours. I don’t think director Ann Kauffman could have done anything more than she did with what she’s been given.
Although it’s obvious that Ms. Schwartz has a keen sense of linguistics, the play needs to find a more viable format rather than the weaving in/out/around/through faster than the speed of lightening, so it can become more intelligible and really somewhere fun!
Vineyard Theater, 108 East 15th Street, NYC (212) 353-0303, vineyardtheatre.org Through June 23.
Photo: Carol Rosegg