nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
July 8, 2011
The Cell/The Hive Theatre’s world premiere of Bad Evidence is here, part of a series exploring power and marriage. Terry Quinn’s play can practically be summed up into three words: The Truth Hurts.
But are Leah (Carmit Levite) and Rich (Armand Anthony) telling the truth? After a dinner party, this married couple agrees to tell the naked truth, no holds barred. This leads to arguments about Rich’s fidelity (or lack thereof) and Leah’s appalling (or justified) behavior during Rich’s hospitalization for a life threatening asthma attack—something that does not stop him from continuing to smoke. Their conflict becomes a kinky and mutual seduction. The game turns to violence, however, and Leah reveals an ugly, shattering truth. Is Leah being truthful? Both actors do a tremendous job showing the couple’s twisted intimacy, and how they are both attracted and repelled by each other. Anthony’s devastation and Levite's bitter triumph are mesmerizing.
In Act Two, other kinds of games are being played by Leah and Rich’s friends: the overripe Danielle (Ana Grosse); her husband Kevin (Ryan Lee); Danielle’s lover, State Assemblyman Jeremy (Gary Lee Mahmoud); and Charlie (Len Rella), the frat boy who never grew up. Mahmoud does a fine job as a mouse trapped in a room of hungry, hostile cats. This politician may be smarmy, but he is out of his league here. In the midst of this malicious merriment, Leah, Rich, and Charlie show up with their own agendas. Everyone is “chin deep in shit” as the festivities get out of hand; friendships are betrayed and relationships are pulled apart. Who is telling the truth? Who is not? And how can anyone tell?
Grosse does a terrific job as the oversexed and manipulative Danielle, and both Rella and Lee find ways to make acutely unlikable people interesting and funny. Director Kira Simring has a sharp eye and is not afraid to shy away from the arduous task of showing both the love and the hatred these deeply dysfunctional characters have towards each other. She treads a fine line, successfully allowing the audience to decide who is lying, and who is lying to themselves. It’s tricky, but Simring pulls it off. The production team also deserves mention: Jessica Biggert, Justin Couchara, Christina Kim, Nick Gonsman, and Justin Stasiw create a detailed and appealing world in which these characters can roam.
Quinn’s play is sinister and darkly comic, but it is also flawed: the characters are so abhorrent towards each other that it’s difficult to believe that they were ever friends, and the character of Charlie almost seems superfluous. Quinn’s language is sometimes flowery and a little overwrought, detracting from the actors’ fine work and the play’s captivating subject. Quinn deserves praise for tackling a disturbing, compelling view of relationships that makes for an uncomfortable and entertaining evening.
Upon reflection, maybe “The Truth Hurts” isn’t quite the way to describe this play after all. In Bad Evidence, the phrase “the truth shall set you free” is unmasked as a very true lie.