Is playwriting another casualty of the economic crisis? Clearly not—the fall season has provided several excellent shows. And yet the six scribes behind The Great Recession—an anthology evening at the Flea about the downturn’s effect on the young—seem in need of a bailout. The plays have the marks of being written in haste (and perhaps repented at leisure). While each offers some of the signatures associated with its author (Adam Rapp’s is dispassionately violent, Erin Courtney’s quirkily sweet, Itamar Moses’s cutely structured), the line-by-line results are often embarrassing. Witness Moses’s “I thought that we were making love, and actually we were fucking,” or Sheila Callaghan’s “Let me ride the valleys of my own chemical misfires.”
Under the supervision of various directors, the Bats—the Flea’s resident acting company—perform the plays leadenly. Admittedly, I attended a 10 p.m. performance at the close of a three-show day, so the effortful quality of the acting might have owed to general exhaustion. Flea head Jim Simpson, who directs Will Eno’s arch satire, keeps the actors more or less restrained; otherwise, self-indulgence reigns. At the close of Thomas Bradshaw’s bungling New York Living, one spirited young woman declares, “Let’s celebrate! We’re going to weather the recession!” She’s very likely correct. But that so many excellent playwrights and directors should produce something so negligible is little cause for merriment. No bonuses here.