For Email Marketing you can trust

Nantucket Sleigh Ride

John Larroquette, left, and Will Swenson star in

Nantucket Sleigh Ride at the Mitzi E, Newhouse,  150 W. 65th St.


Nantucket Sleigh Ride

By Eugene Paul


There’s an artistic and philosophic argument going on in playwright John Guare’s Nantucket Sleigh Ride which is splashed all over the Mitzi Newhouse stage, up and down as well as sideways, and even back and forth in the riotous give and take of director Jerry Zaks’s  ebullient staging.  It’s as if Zaks said “You need this show to fly. Sure, great, the  hyper text,  the magic realism, the Borges whatever, but you want a tuchus in every seat, you gotta make it fly and that’s what we’re going to do.” And since Zaks directed  Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation which  is still flying after twenty years, everybody nodded heads, bobble dolls.


So, does Nantucket fly? Like crazy. Like hypertext.  Like magic realism.  And is the master, Jorge Luis Borges (endearing German Jaramillo) even in the show? Up to his eyebrows. And do other famous names drop like flies?  All over the place. But first, let us try to get a handle on the proceedings, which range from unusual,  to delightful,  to cockeyed, to ferblunget, swooping and/or trundling, all around Edmund Gowery, (splendidly pungent John Larroquette) mature, successful hedge funder, who once had the happy fortune – or misfortune – to write a successful play  decades ago. Which has come back to haunt him in the charming/alarming presences of Poe (funny/scary Adam Chanler-Berat) and Lilac (scary/charming Grace Rex) the apparently abandonded children of long ago love Elsie (lovely Clea Alsip) and possibly McPhee (marvelous Will Swenson), obviously a madman lobsterman.


The children beg him to come to Nantucket which once hosted an amateur production of young playwright Gowery’s only masteriece. Gowery refused their long ago plea,  detested amateur productions.  He has never set foot in Nantucket although he owns a house there which he bought with $20,000 of he play’s earnings, sight unseen,  as an investment upon the advice of his lawyer/agent Gilbert (ripping Jordan Gelber), who now advises him to go up and see how his investment is faring while he and his wife Antonia ( twitching Tina Benko) take a trip to South America. Which is a blow to Gowery because that puts a serious crimp in the affair he is having with Antonia.


If you have been wondering well, what about Borges,   he makes his distinguished presence known and then departs, only to return from time to time, said times carefully – or carelessly – chosen, wise saws dripping from his smiling lips each appearance.  If you become busy taking note of them, you will be busier taking note of the transformations amazing scene designer David Gallo has imposed, possibly leading you astray.  Across the entire back wall are thirty doors, three ranks of ten, surely deeply significant. Well, dear friend, I’m still working on that. It’s a bit surprising to find the second tier turning into its own stage for a series of appearances of our sterling company once Gowery leaves his hedge fund office and goes to Nantucket.  Oh, you’ll see lots of stuff. Including marvelous Emily Rebholz’s costumes and wizard Howard Binkley’s lighting. Those doors are magic after all.


You’ll see Gowery in his Nantucket house for the first time, fending off arrest by  mockingly  macho officer Aubry ( hilariously delightful Stacey Sargeant who also plays Gowery’s voluptuous secretary) It seems to have been the home base of a child pornography enterprise. Whereupon, he is hurried off to the  home of the children, Poe and Lilac ,whose parents, were members of the cast of the amateur production, if we don’t look too closely at the time lines.


What brings on an ill advised intermission is the consternating way McPhee cooks his monstrous lobster. He electrocutes him. And blacks out the stage.  Giving us in the audience a breathing space from our Nantucket sleigh ride to attempt to digest the brilliantly paced goings on director Zaks has constantly on display.  It’s both fortunate and unfortunate. If we realize we are watching a play constructed in the hypertext/magic realism modes, breaking the flow is a mistake.  If we don’t it’s an unnecessary let down.  The pitch and the pace are not as mad in the second act although the entire company maintains its level of high audibility with occasional lapses by the star whose vital presence is not a whit diminished, that’s how good he is. And we are given to wondering if the entire play and every one in it are part of the Borges Conundrum: has the writer written the story or has the story written him. Perfect Guare.


Did I have a good time? I did.  Did the play leave me thinking? Indeed, quite beyond being amused. Guare’s tour de force wrapped in director Zaks’s showbiz trappings is a feast become fast food.


Nantucket Sleigh Ride At the Mitzi E. Newhouse at Lincoln Center.  Tickets:$78-$120. 1hr,50 min. 212-239-6200 Thru May 5.