PLAYING WITH GROWN-UPS
May 10, 2014
When marriages include two devoted professionals plus one infant, tensions build. Unable to muster prerequisite warm maternal feelings for her infant, Joanna (Trudi Jackson) drinks to blanket her anxiety and inability to enunciate her post partum depression in 59E59 Brits Off-Broadway entry “Playing With Grown Ups.”
Disheveled and still wandering the house in a robe, Joanna’s husband Robert arrives home to report he invited their friend, his boss and her former lover, Jake (Alan Cox) for dinner. Understandably, she’s miffed. Surprisingly, Jake appears unprepared for her animosity—despite witnessing the blaring soundtrack of “I AM Woman Hear Me Roar,” an empty bottle of liquor and a baby howling over the speaker.
In Hannah Patterson’s play, the adults come off as confused adolescents making the teenager the adult. Directed by Hannah Eidinow, humor threads through this tragic arc of lost personhood.
Despite his own professional anxiety over retaining his job in the university’s film department, it’s almost impossible to believe Robert did not fathom the depth of her depression. Joanna’s anxiety only accelerates when she meets Jake’s teenage girlfriend Stella (Daisy Hughes) who reminds her of a vibrant professional life lost in the rubble of compromises.
The mix is toxic and there is no tonic in sight. Early in the play, Stella pronounces adults’ habit of making of making things complicated. And complications accumulate throughout the night, the three adults bat zingers at each other forcing the calmly-centered Joann into the position of umpire.
Igniting the emotional fire-keg, Jake announces he’s spending the night on the couch with Stella. And that’s where the drama’s threads begin to bare. Understandably, this sets up the scene for the final “confrontation” but it’s just so hard to believe that Jake and Stella doon’t summarily thrown into a cab.
However, despite society’s progress, Ms. Patterson is not off-mark. A similar dramatic narrative strikes many professional couples.
There are women who don’t know how to redefine themselves as mothers when, like Joanna, they lived through their passion for their jobs. By all accounts, she was more successful and more highly regarded in her profession as the publisher of forgotten womens’ writings than her husband. So why should she abandon her job for a year, why not Robert?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis