Eric Bogosian’s latest play to reach New York is his 2008 1+1 which feels like a made for television movie written without taking into consideration the #MeToo movement that has occurred since then. While its Hollywood milieu of pornography, drugs, and easy money exists, this seems like a rather simplistic view of it all. Director Matt Okin, founder of The Black Box theater company of Englewood, N.J. which has coproduced the play now at the SoHo Playhouse, has done the actors no service allowing for a kind of soap opera acting. The minimalist production values undercut the discussion of the perks and glitz of the film world.
Brianne, a waitress and aspiring actress, meets Phil, a London photographer, who she serves at the Los Angeles Steak & Brew which pays her way while waiting for her big break. When he tells her that he is an international fashion photographer, she asks if he does headshots which he offers to do for free. So begins Phil’s seduction which leads to a torrid love affair, internet porn, big money, and drug addiction and Brianne’s spiral into degradation. Standing by all along is Brianne’s boss Carl who is in love with her but she seems totally oblivious to that fact while waiting for her career in films to take off.
The second act takes place five years after the first act and Phil who has lost his British accent now shows his true colors, while Brianne has been totally destroyed by their liaison and working relationship but has recently gotten herself back together. The schematic play alternates between scenes with Carl and Phil in the first act, and then has long scene and a coda in the second, all of which are predictable from the beginning, leading to the play’s inevitable denouement.
All of the actors come across as one dimensional due to the flat writing and missing back story. As written, Katie North’s Brianne is too naïve and gullible to believe in 2023. Daniel Yaiullo’s smarmy Phil gives off so many red signals that we know from the beginning what Brianne has let herself in for. The fact that after a year together she doesn’t see through his lies is rather unbelievable. Carl, played by the bland Michael Gardiner, is so underwritten that he doesn’t have much to work with, let alone attract the impressionable Brianne who has her hopes set on a higher social circle.
The production design by Ilana Schimmel consists of one table and chair for the restaurant and some film equipment for Phil’s premises, both of which lack atmosphere. The costumes are basic contemporary sportswear. The stage lighting is extremely basic but allows us to view the many scenes. While the milieu of the play is believable but shallowly perceived, the events seem stereotyped and dated. From the author of Talk Radio and subUrbia, we were expecting something more sophisticated.
1 + 1 (through March 19, 2023)
The Black Box & SoHo Playhouse
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.SoHoPlayhouse.com
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes without an intermission