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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THREE CHANGES
at PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS

UNPLEASANT SURROUNDINGS
By PATRICK LEE

  MAURA TIERNEY,DYLAN McDERMOTT & SCOTT COHEN/PH: Joan Marcus

Nicky Silver's predictably plotted Three Changes is billed as a black comedy but plays more like a psychological thriller in which the psychology and the suspense have been left out.


It's immediately apparent that the childless Upper West Side married couple at the center of the play - Nate, a Morgan Stanley vice president, and Laurel, who has the monotonous job of laying out the L.L. Bean catalog - are not going to hold together as soon as Nate's brother Hal, a once-rich TV writer fresh out of rehab, works his way onto their couch indefinitely. We watch as this visitor takes over the household and reshapes the dynamics to his advantage - he invites intimacy with Laurel, continues a lifelong policy of withholding validation from his brother, and before long also installs his lover Gordon, a well-bred boy-toy hustler who'd been working Central Park, in the apartment.


The situation would see m to promise at least an initial kick, but what's resulted on stage is merely unpleasant. It isn't any fun watching Hal and Gordon gradually dominate the place: they're so transparently manipulative and exploitative that Nate and Laurel quickly seem motivated by stupidity, rather than by unfulfilled needs, for not seeing through them instantly.

Also, the play loses narrative drive after the physical violence that ends the first act. If we're to believe that Nate caves completely once Hal and Gordon nearly strangle him to death, we'd need Nate to be played by an actor who can be believed as a pushover. Dylan McDermott, miscast, does a fine job of depicting Nate's deepening depression, but his range doesn't include milquetoast. As Hal, Scott Cohen brings less than enough menace (and, for that matter, less than enough seductive charm in his scenes with Maura Tierney as Laurel) to drive the play's action. The two actors might be more believable if they swapped roles.


The youngest members of the cast - Brian J. Smith as Gordon, and Aya Cash as Steffi, a salesgirl who's been having an affair with Nate - seem to have been directed (by wilson Milam ) as if in a different play with broader characters. Cash brings interest and personality into some fine moments with McDermott. Smith on the other hand is pushed so far over the homoerotic top as the bored, stimulus-craving adolescent that he seems to be playing a parody of something out of Joe Orton.


Thematically, the play is not without interest: there's a potentially dark message here about family. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any resonance in this production.

 


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