LR: Leah Curney, James Patrick Nelson, Claire CurtisWard, Dominic Comperatore . Photo by Hunter Canning
By Eugene Paul
Reza, whose plays Art and God of Carnage were huge hits in Paris
and London and won themselves each a Tony in New York, returns for a second try
with Life X 3 using the same silken translation by Christopher Hampton
that did not go down well fifteen years ago in a star studded cast on Broadway.
Now Off Broadway, handsomely designed by Brian Dudkiewicz, elegantly directed
by Jerry Heymann, splendidly acted by James Patrick Nelson, Claire
Curtis-Ward, Dominic Comperatore and Leah Curney, it’s still in trouble, thanks
to the icy, spare, lacerating wit of playwright Reza. The translation did not
have a darn thing to do with it the first time around or now. It’s Reza’s
intimate brutality with the characters that done it in. Of course, if you’re on
the same page with Reza, it’s a hoot.
play’s design is simple and either clear or far from clear. Three short acts,
all run together, each a variation of the same time period, same characters,
same situation. Sonia (Clair Curtis-Ward) and Henri (James Patrick Nelson) have
put to bed their young son for the night. They think. Off stage, young son
pain in the butt needs entertainment, treats, attention, stories, apple, you
name it. Frazzled Henri tries. Snarky Sonia just gets snarkier. They row. Not
witty. Not pleasant. Just typical Reza slashing observation. There’s someone
at the door.
miserable Ines (Leah Curney) – she’s got a run in her stocking – and her
husband, Hubert (Dominic Comperatore) thoroughly pissed because they are half
an hour late for their dinner date with Sonia and Henri. Only, it’s the wrong
night. They’re a day early. And Sonia wants to tell them to disappear but
Henri says he’s my boss and this is a very important dinner, you have to let
them in. But we don’t have any food, and besides, we’re not dressed.
Let them innnnn!
Yes, it goes down hill from there. Faster,
because they’re got plenty of wine to go with the tray of all the packaged
snacks they had in the house. Which becomes a nasty dinner as Hubert snacks and
snacks commenting on how delicious it all is, putting the wine away as fast as
everybody else. And when he asks the inevitable question which is, if Henri has
finished that scientific paper he’s been working on for three years, expecting
the usual not yet, Henri surprises him: it’s done. Hubert’s finished the
chocolaty snacks has switched to the cheesy snacks, says too bad another
paper’s come out on the same subject. Henri is sunk. Everyone parts on a high
note of unpleasantness.
LR: Dominic Comperatore, Leah Curney, James Patrick Nelson, Claire Curtis
act similar elements, slightly less vicious for no apparent reason. Still not
my cup of tea but maybe you’d be perkier. I must admit director Heymann handles
Henri’s groveling rather more adroitly than one would expect. He also makes
the slightest of adjustments in Hubert One, somewhat effete, Hubert Two
somewhat hard nosed, Hubert Three, lecherous boss making moves on cool wife of
underling, all unrelated yet all related in that they are all Hubert.
Comperatore handles it all superbly.
James Patrick Nelson who goes through the largest character swings and handles
them with ease and charm. Claire Curtis-Ward’s Sonia becomes progressively more
appealing going from you could kill her to actually liking her and Leah Curney
likewise. Best of all – spoiler alert – that off-stage kid does not need
strangling by the end of the play. Maybe it was all those snacks.
Beller did the okay costumes, Janet Bentley did the appropriate music which is
damning with faint praise, but overall, Reza was as well treated as she
deserves to be at this point. I have a feeling that if she takes another hard
look at this play she could turn it into a New York hit, but it may be ancient
history for her. After all, she’s way ahead of the game.
X 3 at
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street. Tickets:$25-$35. 90 Min.
NewLightTheaterProject.com. Thru Dec 8.