The Perplexed is a world premiere from Manhattan Theatre Club currently at City Center 131 W. 55th St., NYC by Tony Award winning Richard Greenberg, Directed by Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow.
“What’s the Answer”? “What’s the Question? ” The Perplexed delightfully engages without tipping It’s hand.
It’s remarkable what you can learn in a library, even if it’s a home library. And even if it’s a ready-made wholesale estate sale library simply for the look of dog-eared tomes giving the appearance of a literate domain, when in actuality the owner of said collection is a cultural barbarian of New York real estate fortune and civic irresponsibility. That particular personage is constantly alluded to by every member of this fabulous ten player ensemble.
In some ways, although never actually seen in this lavish one room set, he is perhaps the most vividly drawn character in this brilliant new play by the Tony Award winning author for Take Me Out (soon to be revived on Broadway this season) The Babylon Line, and Our Mother’s Brief Affair (previously reviewed by me two years ago in NY Splash Magazine) as well as The Assembled Parties (Tony and Drama Desk Nominations) Three Days Of Rain, (L.A. Drama Critics Award, and Pulitzer Finalist) among others. In other words, this writer can write! What’s more, he’s unafraid to write about writing and possesses a voice that carries as much authority in “his” New York, and, in this case ever so slightly Jewish accented tone as say, Tom Stoppard does in The Real Thing.
Lord knows, comparisons can be odious, but I wish to be most complimentary here when making such a one as Sir Tom’s, and even, in terms of American
contemporary classic stage voices, Philip Barry, particularly with his masterpiece, The Philadelphia Story This new play also is surrounded by the circumstances
of a wedding, but unlike a singular star vehicle for his dear friend, Miss Hepburn in 1939 on the NY stage before it became the iconic film a year later, The Perplexed is one of the most evenly distributed ensemble pieces I’ve come to hear and observe in all the decades of theater going I’ve been privileged to attend. What’s more, again, unlike
Kate’s star turn originally with Joseph Cotton and Van Heflin on Broadway before they became the screen images of Cary Grant and James Stewart, this play contains
the Unities of Aristotle, namely of Time, Place and Action!
The Time: “a spring evening in 2017″. Place: ” The library of a Fifth Avenue apartment.” The event, as I mentioned is a wedding of, well, “Two Households, both alike in dignity”, and copious in their indignities. It involves the granddaughter of the literally and figuratively obscene real estate mogul of the house of Stahl: that being one Isabelle, whose enchanting presence is wonderfully rendered by Tess Frazer. Her tall blonde beauty is exceeded only by her modest and wise beyond her years demeanor. She is far from the reluctant bride of a Neil Simon situation, yet not altogether thrilled to be forced into the lavishness of this millionaire’s home ceremony when she’d just as soon marry her beloved Caleb Resnik, (a highly resourceful J D Taylor) at City Hall. Those two, however, are from such not necessarily “fatal loins” of what were once good friends decades ago, but became two foes due to some significant litigations that exhausted all involved of much money, and considerable loving friendships.
How these families’ loves have intertwined over the years and with what results both predictable and astonishing, encompass the somewhat more, yet always engaging” two hours traffic of our stage”. Each and every character who appears in the library becomes through Greenberg’s specificity in playwriting, Lynne Meadows’ seemingly effortless staging that never calls attention to itself, but serves the text to a T, and uniform brilliance of the ten person cast reveals, like Barry did for his generation, how the well- heeled have their perplexities to be sure. Yet, when conscience ,
empathy, and the Yiddish word for wit: ‘Seychel”, is properly’ employed in a timely fashion, life can emerge happier than not. It is a wedding after all, the definitive ingredient of comedy!
The other eight members of the cast require far more than honorable mention for, indeed, each one at different times and opportunities in the narrative carry it with style, aplomb, and copious humor. In alphabetical order, they are:
Patrick Breen, incisive and biting as James Arlen, uncle to the bride, brother to her mother and a failing novelist of some repute;
Evy Arlen- Stahl, a seemingly tireless Margaret Colin in endeavoring to control any and all events with inevitable results from the cosmos.;
Gregg Edelman, father of the groom, and an unflappable presence of sober conscience and enduring love to wife;
Anna Itty, as Patricia Persaud, who provides a comic serenity amidst the chaos that ensues on this evening and of particular consternation to James’ take on reality;
Ilana Levine as mother of said groom, Natalie Hochberg-Resnik (noticing all the hyphenates?), a whirlwind of budinsky passion and determination to fix everything!;
Eric William Morris as Cyrus Bloom, that anomalous entity of a Southern Rabbi who opens the play endeavoring to construct appropriate words with which to officiate the ceremony for the friend-family and all too close relationship of yore with the bride with whom he has unfinished business;
Zane Pais as Micah Stahl, as black a sheep as one could shepherd as brother to the bride, whose covert depth promises more than his overt perversity; and
Frank Wood as Joseph Stahl, father of the bride, son of the unseen hideous mogul, for whom( Joseph) there becomes more warranted sympathy from the audience than perhaps anyone else involved. Mr. wood at one point near the end of act one delivers a singular monologue equally wrenching as it is comic. He does so with such invisible technique that it made me recall Alan Bates in his Tony Award winning turn in “Fortune’s Fool” some eighteen years ago. As for the also Tony Award winning Mr. Wood, I could not conjure a greater, nor more sincere compliment, sir.
One Denise Cardarelli is the Production Stage Manager. From the looks of last Saturday’s matinee. she runs one tight ship!
To everyone who relishes well-spoken American dialogue and is unafraid to brave our theaters, wash your hands, namaste, bow, fist bump, and do come to this,
It’s a limited run so tarry not. The Perplexed may well hold some answers for us all.
Featuring: Patrick Breen, Margaret Colin, Gregg Edelman, Tess Frazer, Anna Itty, Ilana Levine, Eric William Morris, Zane Pais, J.D. Taylor, and Frank Wood
Scenic Design: Santo Loquesto, Costume Design: Rita Ryack, Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner, and Sound Design : Fitz Patton
Ticketing Information: or call 212-581-1212 or going to box office at 131 W. 55th St. Manhattan