After 90 Minutes of A Play on Words, Hard to Give a Hang

In Brian Dykstra's A Play on Words, part of the Americas Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters, two friends pace a suburban driveway and correct each other's grammar and diction. Max (Dykstra) and Rusty (Mark Boyett) explore the etymology of "I don't give a hang," debate whether "insinuate" or "intimate" is the more apt verb, and explain why "often" and "whenever" oughtn't to be used in the same sentence. Margarett Perry's spry direction lends the play the tone and pace of a comedy, but, as Max says, "I would not describe this as fun." In fact, he describes it as "mind-numbingly insipid."

Perhaps Dykstra intends these endless digressions as a political statement—the play takes place during an election year in a swing state. Indeed, one man wears a red shirt and the other a blue. And there's an amusing bit in which the friends attempt to conceive two slogans—one to inflame Democrats, one to provoke Republicans. Maybe Dykstra is suggesting that Americans get so caught up in electoral frivolities and niceties that we ignore the important issues; we obsess over grammar and disregard content. It's a plausible thesis, but after 90 minutes about nothing, I didn't give a hang.

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