Theater archives

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.