Family Symmetry has a promising premise, but a predictable plot.
Reviewed by Nicole C. Lee
Family Symmetry focuses on Allen, a man who was once hospitalized for his obsessive compulsive disorder and is now learning to readjust to life with his wife. Leo Goodman delivers a standout performance: his obsessive mannerisms and deliberate, repetitive behavior feel real and natural. The show, however, does not.
The plot is incredibly predictable and the connection between characters is feigned. Sometimes, it’s even pushed to the point of awkwardness. For example, Allen’s wife, Suzie, tells him that she believes his condition is worsening. Tension builds as Allen vehemently denies switching two picture frames, and he soon screams at her, uttering profanities and flailing his arms as if to strangle her. But moments later, the two are embracing in what is clearly a staged hug. Abrupt transitions like these destroy the show’s emotional logic.
The choppy writing only makes things worse. Suzie’s best friend, Linda (Lisa Pettersson), shows up to complain about being single, and after a few stares, Linda passionately kisses her. The moment’s predictable not because it’s logical, but because the actors telegraph their anticipation for one another’s lines and actions. The scenes may be short, but these awkward moments and poor transitions make Family Symmetry a drag.
Even the play’s big twist is pretty obvious, given all of Suzie’s blatant moments of foreshadowing. She goes from being fully in love to being totally suspicious, and after an “accident” occurs, it’s not hard to guess where Suzie’s choice to “hide” her pregnancy from Allen is going to lead. It’s still a stretch, though, and the boring conclusion shows little understanding of the subject matter: families coping with OCD.
It doesn’t help that Adam Samtur is both playwright and director: the actors are left with few choices (and so deliver poor performances), and the unimaginative blackouts between scenes leave the audience with little other to focus on beyond the plot. (Not to mention the numerous pointless costume changes, many of which occur on stage, delaying dialogue and movement between scenes.)
Overall, Family Symmetry is by no means a bad show, but it lacks the coherence and strong performances necessary to make a sloppily written show look good.
Family Symmetry (80 minutes, no intermission), part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival
Jewel Box Theater (312 W 36th Street, 4th floor)
Tickets (http://ovationtix.com): $18
Performances: concluded August 1
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.