Brian and Russ (Bhavesh Patel and Michael Braun) were first introduced to each other by their partners who–recognizing the joint interests their better halves held–saw their similarities as the sign of a friendship on the horizon. Brian’s Leslie (Jeanine Serrales) and Russ’ Kate (Jennifer Lim) are two old college acquaintances, reunited after some years of absence. Each relationship has its own dynamic, for better or for worse.
Serrales and Patel’s pair are still figuring out the dynamic of their relationship, and issues such as infidelity and insecurity are a recurring theme within. Serrales, bubbly and animated, does a fine job of portraying a woman working to move on from the past, stay in the present, and make the relationship work. Patel’s Brian, on the other hand, while affectionate and expressive with Leslie, shows little resolve to make things better.
Where Brian and Leslie fail is where Russ and Kate succeed. Happily married, Russ and Leslie look to have their relationship figured out; are content with each other and their lives. For this pair, their biggest problem is Braun’s inability to put his brain before his ironically perfect surname.
As seen at Theater B at 59E59 Theaters, Amy Rubin’s set design is clever and stimulating, yet minimalist in style. To mimic the subject matter of the play, the stage is painted a light hue of blue with thick white lines that form the shape of a tennis court. This is a very fitting touch, as the white lines are skewed so as to look like the actors are suspended in the middle of a tennis court while they are performing. In contrast to the figurative set design, the costumes by Ásta Bennie Hostetter are realistic and contemporary, and actually help to keep the production grounded in lieu of a set that never establishes a time or place for the action–the whole production seems to take place in some otherworldly-in-between.
Though the play attempts to dissect the relationship between two men in an interesting way, Bragen’s writing ultimately lacks depth and doesn’t end up saying very much after all. Acting choices, pacing and thematics are all appropriate thanks to Lee Sunday Evans’ seamless direction, but it’s the script itself which is the production’s biggest hurdle. Though there are some interesting and engaging ideas presented regarding the mind of the male, the untidy and nondescript ending make no attempt to make any significant statement about any of it, ultimately shrouding the entire production in a veil of murky, middle-ground mediocrity.
Don’t You F**king Say a Word (through December 4, 2016)
Andy Bragen Theatre Projects and Rachel Sussman
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.59e59.org
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission