Playwright Robert O’Hara’s fertile premise might have made for a provocative, sober sci-fi take on gender roles, sexuality and parenthood. Instead, it’s broadly conceived and lame. The flat dialogue is in the vein of Abbott and Costello with numerous jokes about “fathers” since there are no mothers. The “Dude, I’m pregnant” bit gets painfully recycled.
Jason and Mark have been hooking up for a month and Jason discloses that he’s pregnant. Not feeling ready for such a commitment, they opt for an illegal abortion and get caught up in the legal repercussions of a totalitarian government.
Mr. O’Hara’s visually energetic direction does inject swift pacing to his cartoon-like vision and he has the cast appropriately in overdrive.
Bobby Moreno and Anson Mount gamely perform as Jason and Mark, respectively. Mr. Moreno and Mr. Mount have a fine chemistry together and both have a forceful commitment to their superficial roles.
With a wild beehive and wearing judicial robes, the great André De Shields makes the most of his appearance as a malevolent prosecutor. Mr. De Shields’ precise and honeyed diction and commanding physical presence elevates this deficient material considerably. De Shields also charismatically appears in several other parts.
Stephen Schnetzer, Ariel Shafir and David Ryan Smith all offer skillfully brash characterizations in multiple roles.
Scenic designer Clint Ramos’ fabulous configurations vividly and fluidly convey the bold dimension of an imaginative universe. Costume designer Dede M. Ayite’s eclectic creations are colorfully lavish. Alex Jainchill’s lighting design is sharp. The hair, wig and makeup design by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova adds cinematic flair. Jeff Sugg’s video design crisply depicts the tangential imagery. Lindsay Jones’s ever-present melodramatic original music is blaringly rendered by his sound design.
Overblown, hollow and pointless, Mankind is watchable but makes no impact.
Mankind (through January 28, 2018)
Playwrights Horizons’ Mainstage Theater, 416 West 42 Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission