Emily tries to stall Max for some reason.
Reviewed by Ryan Max
Poor Max has had a rough time of it recently: his adulterous wife left him on account of his heroin habit, and his sister Emily keeps guilt-tripping him for not visiting their late mother in the hospital. He seems like the perfect candidate for a fresh start, a "moving day," if you will. But Emily doesn't want him to leave their ancestral Greenpoint home; she wants to take care of him, knowing that he’s the kind of guy only a sister could love. It is easy to understand her stance but much harder to sympathize with it, given Frank Nigro’s portrayal of the man: even at his most intimate he shouts at characters like a game-show host attempting to sell the banal twists of the plot. Tina Barone, who plays Emily, brings enough nuance to balance Max's grating performance, and the other two actors that round out the cast repeat this unfortunate pattern: as sleazy neighbor, Douglas Reid is just as inept as Nigro, while Max's erstwhile wife Melinda, played by Christie Zampella, almost shines enough to compensate for him. But not quite.
These wildly uneven performances are weighed down even further by the hackneyed concerns of the story in Moving Day. Writer-director Helene Montagna indulges in the most cloyingly symbolic imagery imaginable, and even the characters themselves seem to know it: On the umpteenth time Max compares the boxes he is packing to emotional baggage of some sort, his sister Emily shoots him down: "these metaphors aren't helping." And she's absolutely right: the play isn't strong enough to rise above its fairly basic conventions. In fact, amidst the wayward tone and uneven performances that dominate the show, the Greenpoint home in front of which the action unfolds might be the most skillfully rendered aspect of the production, right down to its green shake siding and wobbly banister. References to skeletons in closets and lines like "Running, moving, what's the difference?" make one hope that the play could be somewhat self-aware regarding its familiar territory. Alas.
The show falters on motions both large and small to the point that even surefire intrigues like adultery, lust, betrayal and death simply fall flat. A moving day, similar to its well-trod cousins like the wedding and the funeral, requires a huge amount of originality and cleverness to make it worthwhile, and it's more than this sincere little play can muster.
Moving Day (70 minutes, no intermission)
The Kraine Theater (85 E. 4th Street)
Tickets (theatermania.com): $20
Remaining performances: Thurs 4/29-Sat 5/1, 8pm