nytheatre.com review by James Comtois
August 11, 2007
Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich's new play ...Double Vision has flashes of moments where its characters reveal honest emotion and compassion, but constantly opts to bulldoze those moments over in favor of cheap laughs and cynical observations about life and love. It can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it's an engaging drama about love, loss, and abandonment or a Neil LaBute-style misanthropic satire where unlikable and unbelievable characters do unlikable and unbelievable things.
Ultimately, because the cowardice and selfishness of the characters was neither remotely grounded in reality nor ridiculous enough to suggest a surreal or abstract tone, I couldn't sympathize with or relate to any of them.
In one scene, an older character tells his younger neighbor a sad and fascinating story about overcoming drug addiction and abandoning his children. Yet this compelling moment is immediately dismissed as the two characters inexplicably betray their significant others by deciding out of the blue to have sex. Scenes like this, where real human interaction is set aside for unrealistic plot devices, make the play seem mean-spirited and smug.
...Double Vision is a story about New York singles with super-ambivalent feelings toward love, relationships, and commitment. One of them, Dave, is afraid to ask his girlfriend Mary to turn down a job offer in California and stay with him in New York. One of his roommates, Mark, is so commitment-phobic that he only sleeps with married women. The third roommate is Ben, the previously mentioned older man who beds—and falls in love with—beauties significantly younger than him. Their neighbor, Celia, works as a nurse and takes the night shift in order to avoid her boyfriend. Ben's latest catch, a young French girl named Michelle, is wide-eyed and optimistic about love, eager to start a relationship with the 50-year-old Ben.
This kind of material has been used in everything from Sex and the City to Clerks to Your Friends and Neighbors. It has the potential to be engaging, funny, touching, silly, tragic, or absurd. However, Blumenthal-Ehrlich's script and Ari Laura Kreith's direction seem to want ...Double Vision to be all of these things at once.
For example, what are we to make of it when Mark admits with glee and pride that he's going to steal Dave's girlfriend, and is dead serious (i.e., he's not just saying this to give Dave a wake-up call)? How on earth are we to react when Dave's response is not to punch his friend, tell him to get stuffed, or finally make a decision about his girlfriend, but to wander around the streets—and the remainder of his time on stage—naked, manically rambling about people without relationships being nothing but "skin and hair and parts?" Are we supposed to find this funny? Tragic? Remotely believable? An insightful comment on relationships? I found it to be confusing and in poor taste.
I will say that the acting across the board is very good: everyone in the cast takes on their roles with dedication and without restraint. Their commitments to the roles are to be commended, especially Shane Jacobsen as Dave, Christopher McCann as Ben, and Rebecca Henderson as Dave's girlfriend Mary.
I have to admit: I found this play offensive, perhaps because it was so technically well-made, yet kept choosing to dismiss the brief moments of genuine humanity for oddball unbelievable behavior and cynical views on life and love.