A play, no matter how spiffy the set, or how cutesy the interlude music, is only as good as its script. And a script, no matter how many sharp lines or sexual recounts, quickly unravels if its characters aren’t compelling. Unfortunately, New House Under Construction suffers from a bit more than unconvincing personas.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper
Sarah and Tony (Shannon Hoob and Kevin Isola), a successful New York couple, are building a vacation house in the town where they grew up. Conveniently, their architect, Trevor (Anthony Crane), was Sarah's teenage romance and Trevor’s wife, Judy (Nancy Lemenager), used to date Tony. Moreover, the couples will soon be neighbors, and the awkward/funny circumstances don’t stop there, to say nothing of the town shrink (Sam Coppola).
This setup is made for a sarcastic little rom-com, but playwright/director Alan Hruska’s aspires for more. As past secrets come up, the play attempts to take on heavy-duty drama and ends up bogged down in a seriousness punctuated by consistent comic relief. What suffers the most is character development: these four are only defined by their problems. Tony, who's an asshole, ends up the most likeable character, mainly because he's the only character real enough to comprehends his self-absorption.
The entire play takes place on a set--the skeleton of a house under construction--that rotates for each scene as an instrumental interlude plays. Though Kenneth Foy’s set is pleasing, the cast isn’t comfortable with its movement, and the tiny platform makes for crowded scenes. The performers all make a valiant effort, but with little to prop up their actions and reactions, it’s hard to take Hruska’s play as the serious meditation on life and choice that it aims to be.
------------------------------------------- New House Under Construction 59 East 59th Street Theaters All tickets $35 Through January 4th www.59e59.org or 212 279 4200
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