This has been a good year for Christopher Durang's plays in Boston. Early in the year, The Huntington Theatre Company produced his Tony Award-winning play, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" And now Hub Theatre Company of Boston is finishing up their revival of "Laughing Wild," set in New York City in 1987.
Durang is strongly influenced by Chekhov. "Vanya" is a mash-up of many of the Chekhovian dramas, with wry humor interspersed throughout the play. In the case of "Laughing Wild," the Chekhov influences are less explicit, but they are there thematically. In Scene Two, there is a fleeting allusion to "The Three Sisters," quoting the line: "We are going to Moscow!" One of Chekhov's persistent themes is the inability of human beings to genuinely connect with one another. This is certainly the case in "Laughing Wild," as The Woman and The Man spend Scenes One and Two in isolated monologue, talking about their unpleasant encounter with one another in the tuna aisle of the supermarket. Durang uses the angst and existential despair of the generic Man and Woman to vent his spleen about many of society's ills: Reagan's failure to provide help for AIDS, the depletion of the ozone layer, God's vengeful wrath against homosexuals, Haitians and hemophiliacs, false gurus who teach vapid affirmations, the impact of deinstitutionalizing the chronically mentally ill and dumping them on the streets of our urban centers. There is also a send-up of the intellectually bankrupt TV culture when The Woman murders Sally Jessie Raphael and usurps her TV show to interview the Infant of Prague about why God chooses to do what He does in the world.
This is a more angry and vituperative Durang than the one who wrote the more recent "Vanya." The wild laughing and the ranting of the Woman, done with great energy and verve by Lauren Elias, is often strident and off-putting. And that is the point that the playwright is trying to make. The Man, played brilliantly by Robert Orzalli, is trying his best to apply the teaching of an EST-like guru to his depressed personality, mindlessly repeating the empty phrases and reminded himself to "just breathe." Both Ms. Elias and Mr. Orzalli deliver some of the best work I have seen them do on Boston stages. They are each required to deliver long, ranting monologues, and they did not waver in portraying the off-center nature of their quirky characters. Ms. Elias used her voice most often to let us know that The Woman was not quite right. Mr. Orzalli accomplished the same thing largely with his eyes and facial expressions. They are well directed in this play by Margaret Ann Brady. Set and props and Lighting are by Ben Lieberson.
|Lauren Elias as The Woman|
Robert Orzalli as The Man
by Christopher Durang
Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Through August 1st
This is a play that uses humor to point out many of the flaws in late 20th Century American culture. It will make you laugh, it will make you groan and it will make you think. There will be one more chance to see the show this evening. Club Cafe - 209 Columbus Avenue, Boston.
Hub Theatre Company Website