Bosoms and Neglect
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
November 30, 2007
In Bosoms and Neglect, John Guare's 1979 dark comedy now playing at the Interborough Repertory Theater on Christopher Street, fear of intimacy manifests itself in brainy ways. Guare's characters draw on respected authors and, at near manic pace, quote them with facility to prevent truths about themselves from surfacing. The subject matter is timely and relevant even if the characters' obsession with their therapist seems plucked from the '70s.
At the start, Deirdre, a book dealer, and Scooper, a computer analyst, appear to be an attractive couple having a glass of wine in her apartment. But, within minutes, it is clear all is not on the up and up. His aging mother appears to re-enact a gruesome, graphic emergency that just landed her in the hospital, an emergency he suspects she has manipulated to coincide with a much needed vacation he is about to take. Scooper and Deirdre don't exactly know each other, although they have sat across from each other without speaking for six years in their therapist's waiting room. This is their first date.
Deirdre, Scooper, and Henny (the mother), spill a lot of information, but none is the foundation for a relationship. They dig deep into their psyches to misrepresent the truth, withhold or omit key information, or lie outright to each other. When that fails, they succumb to quoting from fiction and philosophy lest they get too close to an honest feeling. The characters may be smart, but they don't hear one another. They are needy and nuts. Enter Dr. James, their psychiatrist who is ever present, but who never actually appears. It is he who has contributed to this heightened sense of anxiety. It is August, and he will be on vacation all month, leaving his revering patients to fend for themselves.
Under the skilled direction of David Epstein, the pace accelerates along with the stakes, giving the play its necessary absurdity. And when you think nothing else can go wrong, or the characters can't dig themselves in any deeper, it does and they do. Deirdre talks about her dead dog, Raymond, then her husband, Raymond. Wait, says, Scooper; you're married? Your husband and your dog have the same name? We learn that her parents died in a car crash when she was very young. Suddenly, her father lives in New Jersey, next he's in the Mafia, but he's not Italian. She says she turned her father in and the FBI gave her a new identity. By the end, her father is a librarian, but we believe none it. Sarah Mack does a remarkable job of making Deirdre appear lovely and sane until there is no alternative but to accept her actions as proof for her need of five-day-a week psychiatry. Charlotte Hampden interprets the long-suffering mother with ghastly reality so that very few will envy Scooper. She withholds information that might save her life and reveals her character when it no longer matters. Nate Dushku is excellent as the glazed Scooper, a man who can't seem to find solid ground under foot. His costume especially, designed by Sari Zoe Rozens, lends an off-kilter air, as if his head were too big and the body beneath were withering from neglect.
Even the title of the play serves as a tidy metaphor. Relationships require honesty and intimacy. Without it, like tumbleweed, neglect grows bigger and bigger until it becomes an obstacle to moving on. In this play, there is only one dependable truth: New York is really empty in August. The rest is smart dialog in the mouths of lonely but clever characters—a fine recipe for a very entertaining evening.
This is Interborough Rep's first play in their reconfigured space. It is a bold, professional presentation. If this is the caliber of their workmanship, they are worth watching.