According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Monday, July 27, 2009


A short play filled with witty dialogue takes a turn at picking apart the pretensions and cruelty of the upper class.

Reviewed by Ryan Max

From the first glimpse of the all-girls prep-school dorm room set, to the first word out of these quick-witted Brits, it’s pretty clear that Numbers isn’t about how righteous and generous the upper class is. The all-female cast hashes out this tale of class tension in flurries of finely calibrated dialogue: the audience laughs exactly when they are supposed to, and the pause after each precision-guided line ("If she can't do anything better with her hair, how can she do anything better with the school?") is just long enough to let the laughter rise and fall without breaking the rhythm.

The three girls that we are introduced to first--Katherine, Isabel, and Jennifer--are deeply involved in discussions of what Katherine will do when she is named head girl of the boarding school in which they reside. They play little games where they take turns shouting out future plans and husbands' careers ("Married to a painter!"). And about half an hour into the hour long play, they are more or less in the same place that they started: prep school girls chattering about exactly what people imagine prep school girls chatter about.

Only in the play's second half does the expected comeuppance interrupt their little orgy of arrogance. Their fourth roommate, Hetty, enters and reveals that, in fact, she has been chosen as the head girl. Hetty here stands in for the lower classes: she is quieter, nerdier, and not as obsessed with status as her soon-to-be-former friends. After their initial shock turns into disdainful and increasingly cruel attacks against Hetty, the girls begin to turn on one another.

All of this drama may be intended to speak to the vitriolic response of assumed privilege and power when it is questioned or challenged. The way that Hetty gets Jennifer to defect to her side (by using her older brother, on whom Jennifer has a crush, as bait) may be intended to reveal how flimsy their convictions are, and how self-serving their motives. But, much like the MacGuffin stolen diary that the girls use against Hetty, these devices are too quick and easy of narrative fixes. They may be great tools to reveal the ugly side of those who use them, but they don't work so well as tools to make a compelling story.

Numbers is an enjoyable play, full of deft dialogue and acting. But with a central conflict that is too long in coming and a narrative pushed along by easy fixes, it falls short of the scathing indictment of class pretension it set out to be.

Numbers (1 Hour; No Intermission)
Where Eagles Dare Studio Blackbird (347 W. 36th St., 13th Fl.)
Tickets: No Performances Remaining at the Midtown International Theater Festival

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