Disillusioning America

Mamet draws big laughs, Inge draws some tears, Ethan Coen draws a blank

Michael Pressman's revival for MTC, with its biracial casting, gives Inge's sad little fable an extra twist: Doc's having married "beneath him" now involves crossing what was, in 1949, still a major social and legal barrier. This gives the couple's acceptance by everyone else a queasy underpinning—which helps, since Pressman's production, with its steady forward drive, doesn't always leave space for the silent loneliness that wells up in the interstices. Merkerson, always touching and real, seems less inattentive to her housework than busy dealing with the minor characters who bustle nonstop in and out. She also derives less pain than Lola needs from Anderson, a big, burly, healthy-looking fellow who seems, till the last act, the optimistic opposite of a recovering alcoholic. Kazan's imperturbable Marie, too, could use a hint of the dark currents below her surface sweetness. Brenda Wehle, as Lola's less-than-admiring next-door neighbor, supplies Merkerson's best seconding; the air in their brief scenes together runs thick with unspoken comment.

Office politics: Nathan Lane, Ethan Phillips, and Dylan Baker in November
Scott Landis
Office politics: Nathan Lane, Ethan Phillips, and Dylan Baker in November

Details

November
By David Mamet
Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
212-239-6200

Come Back, Little Sheba
By William Inge
MTC/Biltmore Theatre
261 West 47th Street
212-239-6200

Almost an Evening
By Ethan Coen
Atlantic Stage 2
336 West 16th Street
212-279-4200

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In Ethan Coen's Almost an Evening, contrariwise, the air runs thin and empty during the large gaps between the lines. Coen's three meager sketches derive from glib stereotypes that stay unexplored as the sketches plod their predictable way to equally meager punch lines. A lot of good actors are wasted on this arid piece of ego-indulgence; only F. Murray Abraham, as a temperamental actor playing an equally temperamental Old Testament God, gets a few blessed chances to show off. Don't waste your time.

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