Real-life couple and stars of screen Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman storm the stage and distinguish themselves, mostly, in this duet trauma drama, one of those shows where shattered characters reunite, crab at each other, and take exactly the running time they’ve been allotted to name out loud the horrors that broke them up years ago.
In this case, it’s Mullally who lances the boil: Her climactic monologue about her Emma’s darkest moments with drunk cowboy poet Ulysses (Offerman) prove agonizing and soaring at once, in the way of high tragedy. Piccolovoiced Mullally, for the most part, plays the straight, longgone wife who turns up in Ulysses’s shithole trailer two decades after fleeing for a more conventional life. But there’s something affecting in the way her Emma sets herself to cleaning up the dump (and their past): With weary zeal, she turns to the traditional woman’s work he won’t bother with. The set, a horizonwide mockup of an Airstream, is appropriately grimedover and cluttered; you can imagine ne’er-do-wells crashing in it after each night’s show.
Offerman wins laughs in the showier part of the Sam Shepard genius he plays, but the role (and performance) has a touch of the screen, specifically the sitcom: He barks outrageous things, and as with Ron Swanson, his character on Parks and Recreation, we too often can’t tell whether he’s joking.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 23, 2014