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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY
at Playwrights Horizons

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS
By BILL STEVENSON

  JonathanGroff & Zachary Booth/PH:Joan Marcus

In his thoughtful new play Prayer for My Enemy Craig Lucas tackles a number of weighty subjects: the war in Iraq, confusion over sexuality, dysfunctional families, father-son relationships, addiction, rage, violence, and the importance of forgiveness. He makes thought-provoking observations about all of them, and it's easy to sympathize with his troubled characters. Unfortunately, Lucas' litany of 21st-century American woes doesn't add up to a cohesive drama.

Billy (Jonathan Groff ) is a young man who has enlisted in the Army reserves and gets sent to Iraq. Before leaving he reconnects with a childhood friend, Tad (Zachary Booth). Although they both profess to be straight, it's clear that they have very strong feelings for each other. Tad becomes involved with Billy's sister, Marianne (Cassie Beck), who gets pregnant. Billy has volunteered to go to Iraq in part to earn the admiration of his father, Austin (Skipp Sudduth), a recovering alcoholic who owns a deli. The two have never been close, and Billy's enlistment doesn't change that. Austin is more interested in the New York Yankees than he is in his son. And his wife, Karen (Michele Pawk), lives in constant fear that he'll start drinking again.

A separate plot involves Dolores (Victoria Clark), a middle-aged woman who has left New York City for upstate New York to take care of her sick mother. She's been dating a doctor for seven years, and they're now engaged. But it's clear she doesn't love him. Dolores rants about how difficult it is to live in the city, and her diatribe about street-cleaning regulations will amuse anyone who has endured parking in a big city. It turns out she still has pent-up rage, however, and near the end of the play Dolores finally intersects with Billy's family.

When the parallel stories merge, one hopes that Prayer for My Enemy will come together thematically. While some strands get tied together, the play still goes off in too many directions. Director Bartlett Sher (who collaborated with Lucas and Clark on The Light in the Piazza and directed the current revival of South Pacific) isn't able to bring order to this disjointed, rambling drama.

Lucas does have a lot to say about the state of America today the problem is that he has so much on his mind and tries to cram it all into a play that runs only an hour and forty minutes. He gives Clark the funniest monologues, and she's nearly as good here as she was in last summer's The Marriage of Bette & Boo. Groff (Spring Awakening, Hair) also shows off his acting chops in a dramatic role that shows off his vulnerable side. The other actors do solid work too. On the whole, Prayer for My Enemy is usually compelling even if it isn't coherent.

 


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