Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis
nytheatre.com review by Cate Cammarata
August 11, 2011
What exactly defines a mid-life crisis? In Herman Kline’s Midlife Crisis, fears about aging and mortality interweave effortlessly with laughs and surprises in this entertaining new comedy by Josh Koenigsberg. Herman and Liz Kline are a typical middle-aged couple from Riverside living a typical upper middle-class life—until now. Herman is beginning to act strangely. Liz suspects an affair until Herman, the head of the trauma bay at Mt. Sinai Hospital, confesses that he stole a bag of drugs found in a young stabbing victim the night before. Not only did he steal it, he intends to keep it!
Why would a successful doctor do such a thing? The answer slowly reveals itself as we watch Herman’s story unfold. Adam LeFevre gives a stunningly poignant performance as Herman Kline, a man desperate to hold on to his own sense of self even as it begins to change before his own eyes. We recognize his frustration at his moments of forgetfulness as our own; his memories of meeting his wife in college are touching, bittersweet and amusing all at the same time. Kathryn Kates’s portrayal of Liz Kline, the Riverside housewife caught in her own attempts to maintain her attractiveness, is sympathetic and real, hilarious one minute and heart-breaking the next. She illuminates the feminine midlife crisis. Her character’s honesty and candor reveal real issues that haunt women as they get older: the fears of becoming sexually invisible and increasingly irrelevant, even inside their own marriages.
Mary Quick, as the young Lauren Axelrod, provides a youthful foil to the aging Liz, and is appropriately smart and witty with a promising future. Bobby Moreno gives an authentically urban—albeit slightly hyperactive—rendition of Ernie Santos, a brilliant young man throwing away his future by selling drugs. Simple sets designed by Anne Allen Goelz imaginatively convey the sense of space, and sound designer Zane Birdwell’s choice to use the 1963 hit “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals during scene changes evoked nostalgic memories of youthful love from once upon a time.
However, it is the well-crafted script that is the real star of the show. Koenigsberg introduces jokes and references that keep resurfacing throughout the play in one form or another, that give the audience a feeling of having “inside information” later as they slowly piece the puzzle together. Herman and Liz address issues of aging and mortality that face every Boomer today in refreshingly honest and often humorous terms. Director Sherri Eden Barber keeps the twists and turns of the show moving along quickly, but in my opinion the approximately 90 minute running time is far too short. As the play ended I left reluctantly, wanting to see more of Herman and Liz, recognizing them as old friends, and desiring to continue their journey with them.