Slicing It Thin

Writers Brooke Berman and Mike Leigh offer new plays that barely exist

Talk and tantrums: Two Thousand Years
Carol Rosegg
Talk and tantrums: Two Thousand Years


Hunting and Gathering
By Brooke Berman
Primary Stages
59 East 59th Street

Two Thousand Years
By Mike Leigh
Acorn Theater, Theater Row
410 West 42nd Street

Somehow it's all vaguely connected to Middle Eastern politics, the first of the many Jewish-linked topics that Leigh picks up and discards in the course of the play's weirdly arhythmical lurch from scene to scene. Maybe it's all about Jews' loss of faith: When the unemployed son takes up Orthodox practices, it's treated as a family scandal. But as in Berman's play, the connections among these people, for all the anecdotal family background Leigh pours in, are created so laconically that it's hard to see how their feuding, or their Jewishness, affects them. When the wife's estranged sister arrives in Act Two, it all turns into one of those sibling bitchslaps that seemed to infest every second British play after the success of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. But as with the play's other themes, this one's all talk and tantrums. Nobody's life seems to be affected by anything anyone else says or does, though presumably they, and we, would find life more pleasant if they'd all just stop kvetching already. Still, Elliott's actors often manage to peek appealingly through the script's prolonged discursive yelp. Laura Esterman and Richard Masur make an easily believable long-married couple; Merwin Goldsmith finds both the good and the grim in the grumbling patriarch; and Cindy Katz catches the interfering sister with grating exactitude. Even so, you might be forgiven for thinking the title refers to the show's running time.

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