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8/19/14

Theresa Rebeck, We Need to Talk about Poor Behavior

Y’know, Theresa Rebeck is talented - look no further then one of her obscure plays like The Scene or even the writey-talkey Seminar - but sometimes, I feel like she can’t see the forest through the trees when it comes to her work.


Right on cue, we have Poor Behavior, now open at The Duke on 42nd Street, where we are treated to a series of…something. I don’t know; I just couldn’t even with what was going on or how these two couples, having a weekend getaway and pounding vino like it is wine o’clock from sun-down to sun-up, would even be in the same room together. Strain credibility all you want, but when the show opens with two characters screaming about competing philosophies about goodness, no context whatsoever, girlwhuttt...

Poor Behavior progresses forward with similar mindset of, “well, this is happening because…the writing.” Trying to discern motivations or even consistent characterizations of these two couples isn’t exactly a tedious undertaking, but more of a “why bother?” Theresa, Honey, what’s the point of all of this?

And seriously, where is a dramaturge when you need one? As rumors of infidelity escalate between both couples, the writing just truly - TRULY - goes off the rails. As opposed to addressing these rumors head on, characters would speak in muddy dialogue and in metaphors and swap awkward body language. You know, as opposed to stating outright "no, I am not banging your friend’s wife” or “no, I have not been inside of your Irish husband; that was just a HUG,” they would respond with “so, what if I was?” or “I need a muffin.” Characters withholding relevant information and details that would change the trajectory of the story if spoken candidly are HUGEASS PLOT FUCKUPS and Poor Behavior had them go on well into the second act.

So, what exactly is redeemable about Poor Behavior? Well, Rebeck does get in some funny dialogue when she is not botching the story and maybe even a good scene or two. And Evan Cabnet has a moment of direction brilliance in the second act involving a refrigerator, causing the audience I was in to audibly gasp. The performances are adequate, especially the on-edge and hilarious Heidi Armbruster. And Lauren Helpern’s country home set is stunning and well-detailed.

It all falls on Rebeck’s shoulders as every problem in Poor Behavior starts and ends with her. My reaction to this show is similar to my reaction to Dead Accounts, Rebeck’s last Broadway offering. A few good bits of dialogue and a few decent scenes - and to be fair, having Norbert Leo Butz haul ass will make any show easier to sit through - yet my overall takeaway of the story is negative and “whutttttt?.” I’ll always seek out a production of Rebeck’s - her anthology gets produced pretty often and I love supporting female playwrights - but audiences come to see good shows, not just good scenes. Girl needs to think about the big picture more then just having a few moments of passable quality.


Photo Credit: James Leynse

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