Let’s talk about the talent: Gallogly and Smith are, in a word, fantastic in Fiercely Independent. They listen to each other intently, their responses are spontaneous and natural, and their chemistry is evident. Even when they’re not speaking, their inner dialogues are continuous and their intents are crystal clear. Gallogly and Smith are by turns playfully fun and painfully electric.
The direction by playwright/director Kathleen K. Johnson easily contributes to Gallogly and Smith’s success. She carefully balances the ebbs and flows of their conflicts and vulnerabilities in well-paced sprints.
Regrettably, the acting and direction are hobbled by Johnson’s own frequently unimaginative and disjointed script. The dialogue is natural and enjoyable enough when the couple lets down their guard, but when they begin to air their grievances against each other, the clichéd barbs start to fly so fast and furious that the audience really can’t hone in on an integral argument. Julie and Robert simply continue to stab at each other with petty grievances until they, and the audience, tire of it. Julie’s last straw seems to be Robert’s reading the newspaper instead of paying attention to her; she finally tells him she’s no longer in love with him, and walks out like a wounded victim. The audience is just as dumbfounded as Robert by this exit. The play would have been better served if the couple had suffered a single, high-stakes conflict rather than a pile of random domestic gripes.
The costume design by Rodney Harper efficiently define the simple, middle class couple. The set and lighting design by Will Cotton is appropriately simple and effective for a nondescript hotel room.
Fiercely Independent (through April 7, 2019)
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, in Manhattan.
For tickets call 212-691-1555 or visit https://www.fiercelysoho.com/
Running time: one hour and ten minutes without an intermission