If ever a play needed a talkback afterwards, Joseph Scott Ford’s bewildering, grating and slight Not Even the Good Things does. By the end of its gobsmacking 75 minutes, the eerie ever-present appearance of a bedraggled little girl in a red T-shirt who interacts with a single character is never explained. Is she a ghost? A symbolic apparition? Or a figment of his depressed imagination? This is never conclusively answered.
The corrosive Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf-style antics of two sketchily drawn straight young couples are depicted with no great impact. Then there’s their hippy dippy friend who shows up with her shaman husband who in a better play would have brought resolution. Instead, it all sputters out to little effect. The cast appears for their curtain call to audience confusion as to whether the play is over as it seemed to have ended earlier.
In the present, two stressed-out New York City couples are at a bucolic Catskills cabin for a weekend sojourn. There’s heavy drinking, romantic tensions and attempted infidelity. Except for the New Age socialite, the shaman and one person who “is in marketing,” Mr. Ford doesn’t really impart much biographical information. Ford’s dialogue is well-crafted authentic today-speak.
Oh, thank God, we’ve made it. It’s fucking beautiful out here, so fucking still and quiet. Do you hear how quiet it is?
Gloriously enunciating every “fucking” in these opening lines and many more variations on that epithet to come is the vivacious Victoria Janicki as the domineering member of the two couples. Reveling in her part’s obnoxiousness, Ms. Janicki’s wickedly unrestrained performance is beyond broad and is a highlight of the show.
The youthful cast of Collette Astle, Sea McHale, Mickey Roberts and Allie Trimm, all energetically attack their underwritten twenty something roles with exaggerated flair. The charismatic Stephon Pettway wonderfully conveys the shaman’s soulfulness and humor. Serena Parrish is suitably enigmatic as “The Girl” with her wide-eyed expressions and soothing voice.
In addition to instigating the company’s full throttle performances, director Kelsey Claire’s efficient physical staging achieves making this faulty play stage worthy. Paintings of deer subtly command attention and are illustrative of the fine set design of the cabin. Brightness sharply plunging into ominous darkness is characteristic of Alexander Le Vaillant adept lighting design. Oscar Noel Fitzpatrick’s cool street clothes stylishly represent each character with distinction.
Dramatically underdeveloped and with its cryptic paranormal distraction,
Not Even the Good Things never really adds up to more than a minor take on contemporary relationships.
Not Even the Good Things (through July 27, 2019)
Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.bfany.org
Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission