For Email Marketing you can trust

Cost of Living


Review by Julia Polinsky


Cost of Living switches back and forth in time and place, interleaving the stories of two couples, with a prologue out of chronological order (Jo Bonney’s seamless direction helps hugely). Both couples consist of a caregiver and “differently-abled” partner in a wheelchair; blue-collar Eddie (David Zayas) and his estranged wife Ani, a quadriplegic with both legs amputated at the knee (Katy Sullivan); John (Gregg Mozgala) a rich Princeton grad student with cerebral palsy, and Jess (Kara Young) who has much in common with the street.

Just an aside, for the profanity-averse: The characters in Cost of Living toss around the f-bomb and swear liberally, especially Eddie and Ani, but John and Jess are no innocent users of clean language. “Don’t call it differently-abled, it’s fucking retarded” says John, in his interview with Jess. Eddie’s opening line, in a monologue destined to be used in acting classes for years, points out that “The shit that happens is not to be understood.”

A person sitting on a stool

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
David Zayas as Eddie in Cost of Living. Photo by Julieta Cervantes 

In the prologue, Eddie opens his Bayonne-bred truck driver’s heart to someone in a Williamsburg hipster bar, lives hard with his gloom, texts his dead wife. This prologue sets up Eddie’s life as a frame for the rest of the play; the chronology goes from December to previous September and back to December.

The stories of the two couples are somewhat parallel; each in an accessible apartment (scenic design from Wilson Chin makes the most of Manhattan Theatre Club’s versatile stage); each requiring care, with all the emotional baggage that trails along with the word “care,” and each concerned, in one way or another, about money.  

Eddie and Ani, married “twenty years and almost one” before her car accident, so clearly love each other, and that love causes pain that’s so palpable, it’s hard to watch. Marzok leavens the agony with Ani’s caustic humor, Eddie’s clueless silliness. They spat about insurance, paint colors, music, needing help.

A person sitting in a chair

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Katy Sullivan as Ani in Cost of Living. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

John is straightforward about being rich, interesting, handsome. He hires Jess because he needs her help, then coaxes – or bullies – her into revealing more about herself than shows on her resume. She has “a lot of present employment” in bars, yet her resume reveals that she graduated from Princeton with honors. Jess conceals more than she reveals; the audience knows much more about her heartbreak than John does.

A picture containing person, transport

Description automatically generated
Gregg Mozgala, as John; Kara Young as Jess, in Cost of Living.  Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Cost of Living paints Eddie with a caring brush that’s clotted with anger, guilt, regret. Ani’s rage torches their every interaction, and her caustic humor and brusque comments build a verbal façade that conceals her need for his care. John’s anger shows up as arrogance; Jess’s grief and loss, as a streetwise, sassy, self-defensive shell.

By the end of the play, all the characters have revealed what it costs them to be human, vulnerable. To need someone else. To live. To share lives. The play’s structure makes it unfortunately confusing, and the final scene stretches credibility a bit, but it also draws the two stories of Cost of Living together in a way that’s almost satisfying.

The performances are so stunning that it’s worth seeing Cost of Living just to watch them. As hard as it is to highlight one over another, Kara Young is simply magnificent -- there’s a reason she has a Tony nomination under her belt. Katy Sullivan’s mastery of nuance is just splendid. Gregg Mozala hits all the right notes; David Zayas’s blue collar Bayonne is spot-on.


Cost of Living

At the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

261 W. 47th St.

New York, NY 10036

Masks are required at this theatre


Tickets $74-298 at Telecharge:

Running time 1:50 with no intermission

Tuesdays, most Wednesdays, Thursdays, at 7pm (Wednesday 10/12 at 8pm)

Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2pm

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Through October 30