As in many Silver plays, the cast of characters includes a monstrous mother and an unhappy gay son. The play’s two acts vary tremendously in tone and style. The first act takes place in 1958, while the second act takes place 46 years later. The opening scene occurs in a baroque hotel room at the St. Regis. Martin tells us that it is his wedding night to Irene, the girl of his dreams – or so he thinks. Unfortunately, Irene finally gets around to telling him that she is in love with another man and that he is on his way to pick her up. At first, Martin does not believe her but is then confronted with Emil, a manly garage mechanic, of no money and limited education. Martin offers to fight Emil for Irene. Donald, the bell boy, and Melka, a maid, become involved. The act ends with a cliffhanger that is not explained until almost the end of the play.
The second act set in 2004 takes place at the Manhattan loft apartment of Noah, Irene’s gay son, a theater director, two years after his father’s death. His mother who now lives with his sister Sheila in Connecticut has been found by the police wandering around Kennedy Airport in her pajamas and slippers, and she is being brought to his apartment. She has been steadily falling apart since her husband’s death, but this and her new interest in foul language, is something new. Noah is a nervous wreck seeing his mother and sister again. But he is also in the midst of breaking up with Leo, his actor boyfriend of one year. He has been offered work in television in Los Angeles and is planning on making the move.
Irene turns out to be every bit as crazy as Sheila has described but even more wily suggesting that her children have no sense of humor. Reliving the past, she talks to their father and has a flashback to the wedding night back in 1958. Noah’s painful childhood with his distant mother who wanted little to do with her children by whom she felt trapped raises all kinds of bad memories for him. The new problem, however, is that Sheila doesn’t want their mother back as she is ruining her marriage and with her career taking off she doesn’t have time to watch her 24 hours a day. What is Noah to do about both Irene and Leo?
This Day Forward is clever and accomplished rather than witty and focused. June Gable has the best roles as well as the best lines as Malka, the optimistic Polish maid with terrible stories, in the first act and as the dementia-prone 71-year- old Irene in the second. As the central character in each act, Michael Crane is similar but contrasting as both husband Martin on his wedding night and son Noah confronting his elderly mother. While Martin is frenetic but compassionate, his Noah is neurotic and cruel.
In the underwritten role of the newly married Irene, Holley Fain is charming but isn’t allowed to go far enough for farce. Similarly, Joe Tippet as the virile, aggressive grease monkey Emil makes a strong impression but his character is not permitted anything much to do but grandstand. Andrew Burnap has a better time as the hilariously light-fingered bell boy Donald in the first act and the pleasant and curious Leo in the second. On the other hand, Francesca Faridany makes a very brief, early appearance as a hotel guest annoyed by all the noises, and then a very strident appearance as Sheila, Irene’s daughter, as neurotic as her brother Noah.
The Vineyard has done well by the impressive physical production. Allen Moyer’s contrasting sets for the luxurious hotel suite and the modernistic and minimalistic loft apartment are enviable. The costumes by Kaye Voyce are pitch-perfect for the two time periods, 1958 and 2004. Some of the credit for the look of the characters goes to Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas’ wig, hair and makeup design. David Lander’s lighting design makes the St. Regis suite look warm and inviting, while Noah’s apartment is made to look cold and frigid, much like his soul.
This Day Forward shows much tighter control than many of Nicky Silver’s early anarchic plays. However, aside from offering a few wonderful characters in Malka and the older Irene, the play is disappointing as it sets up expectations which don’t play out. When This Day Forward is over, it leaves a feeling of something missing that has failed to take place. It can’t simply be saying that the sins of the parents are visited on the children – or could it?
This Day Forward (extended through December 18, 2016)
The Vineyard Theater, 108 E. 15th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-353-0303 or visit http://www.vineyardtheatre.org
Running time: two hours including one intermission
New Nicky Silver play in desperate need of a third act as it doesn’t have an ending or resolve its plot.