New House Under Construction
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
December 6, 2008
When New House Under Construction, written and directed by Alan Hruska, begins, we're introduced to Trevor and Sarah. He is married to Judy; she to Tony. The time is 15 years after they broke up with one another (Tony and Sarah; Trevor and Judy), and they're all unhappy. This weekend in question, their relationships will be rekindled and we will see bits and pieces of their relationships through the years.
As we delve deeper into these people's lives, we learn of a number of plot contrivances, some of which are well-developed, some of which serve no purpose. Sarah had a "crush" on Judy once upon a time, not necessarily romantic. Judy has wanted to bed Sarah for quite some time. This is mentioned often and hinted at throughout, but ultimately Judy's quest is abandoned.
Sarah had an abortion once upon a time that rendered her unable to have children—it was Trevor's baby that she conceived, while with Tony. Her quest to adopt with Trevor is the focus of the play's last quarter. Her hallucinatory vision of the baby she "killed" is a device mentioned, but ultimately plays no part.
Confused? Well, you're not alone. Hruska's play is very large in scope, very short in duration (approximately 95 minutes) and is populated by scenes so short that it led me to believe that this was once a film idea (the script, in a four-act structure, corroborates this notion). The time span of the play is a major source of the problems. It wasn't until I looked at the script that a lot of it was settled in my mind, but even then it was confusing. Perhaps it should be noted in the program.
The performances are solid; the men are stronger than the women. Nancy Lemenager (Judy) and Shannon Koob (Sarah) are working with interesting characters, but do not make them come alive. Kevin Isola (Tony), Anthony Crane (Trevor) and Sam Coppola (Manny, a psychiatrist and others) are pretty perfect for their roles.
The design is really where the production excels, from the standing framework of a house on a turntable set (by Kenneth Foy) to the coolly colored lights (by Jason Hantrowitz, best known for designing the lights for Disney theme park attractions like Fantasmic! and Voyage of the Little Mermaid). Costumes (Sarah J. Holden), sound (Peter Fitzgerald), and music (Lisa Ralia Heffter) are all appropriate for the piece, as well.
If Hruska was trying to put forth any particular point, I will admit that I missed it. Still, the writing is intelligent and it's a pleasant afternoon diversion. However, given the subject matter, I'm not entirely sure that "pleasant" would be what he would want to describe his piece.