A Perfect Future
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
February 12, 2011
A Perfect Future tells the story of three longtime, radical friends who once upon a time shared in their own view that Marxist philosophy was best served through random and promiscuous sex, debauchery, and doing what most “liberal intellectuals” do—talk themselves into a corner.
The play takes place in the living room of John and Natalie’s apartment in Manhattan. Elliot, their longtime friend and sometimes lover, is a gay man who grips his wine glass so hard it looks as if it may snap off in his hand. But, good news is, Elliot is still fighting the good fight. He's representing an ex-Black Panther named Mohammed who's bold enough to still go to jail for his beliefs. Elliot has flown in from California to share war stories with his old friends, and hopefully convince them to cut a check.
Natalie is a would-be documentary film maker. Trying to finish that pesky doc about Rwanda. Which she’s long since lost the heart to do. While her husband John is a super yuppie, who long since abandoned his radical ways for the luxury of a personal sommelier and thousand dollar bottles of wine.
The evening is rounded off by the entrance—just at the right time—of a young associate of John’s called Mark, who for plot purposes is conveniently gay.
At least a dozen bottles of wine are opened, each demanding their own glass; times four people, that equals one cluttered coffee table. As the crew gets more crapulent the ugly truth about how they really feel, toward each other, about their work, their very lives, begins to spill out. Think Virginia Woolf without the wolf bite. Midway through the fete Mark prepares to tell a joke which he announces ends with the with the word “nigger” and that basically wrecks the evening for everyone. Until he decides to seduce Elliot, because after all a gay man whose political and social beliefs are offended when he's sober, will always give into the wiles of youth, once he's had enough wine.
I think this script by David Hay is attempting to peel the skin off the liberal onion and show us the hypocrisy deep down in even the most forward thinking of hearts. Problem is, the play just doesn’t do that. It feels weighted down in realism, and lost in a barrage of talk. The characters skim the surface of real heart-felt emotions, and it doesn’t feel like there is much at stake.
The cast—Donna Bullock, Scott Drummond, Daniel Oreskes, and Michael T. Weiss—all do a fine job. The characters are intellectual, successful, and well read. All four actors are believable as such. They play varying degrees of drunkenness with a sometimes unctuous, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes sickening accuracy.
Wilson Milam’s direction keeps the play moving at a nice pace and all and all it feels like a quick 90 minutes. Charles Corcoran’s set is beautiful and perfect for the scope of the play.
While some of the writing is clever and makes astute observations about our shared hypocrisy, the play never quite gets off the ground. It’s missing a dramatic tension and that essential, elusive dynamic that makes a play a piece of theatre, as opposed to a movie or TV show. This felt very much like an episode of something on cable television. Even in a play where the characters are basically ugly, there must be somebody to empathize with. If I feel for anyone it’s Donald Fried, the stage manager, who has to rinse, dry, and reset all those wine glasses. Not to mention rewrapping and re-corking the bottles. Between that and the handful of randomly slung barbiturates, quite an end-of-the-night clean-up job.