nytheatre.com review by Nat Cassidy
August 14, 2008
The Quarter Life Crisis, that yawning, purposeless chasm one drops into upon graduating college and entering "the real world," is the main concern of Jessica Hinds's Control. It's a period of life that seems to be defined by anxiety, sloth, broken dreams, and excessive consumption of popular culture. It's not all that different from adolescence, only now, the rent is due.
The recently-fired Brady, played by a charmingly befuddled Ivan Perez, finds himself rooming with the recently-expelled-from-college Holly. Though he has his own room, he prefers crashing in the living room on top of a pile of his discarded dirty clothes. Holly, played with skill and aplomb by Limor Hakim, revels in her own proclivity towards fashion magazines and junk food. Needless to say, their apartment is not in the most desirable state when first we meet them, nor do they seem at all in a rush to change their ways and get their lives under control. They're perfectly content to tread water, shooting the breeze and eating chips off the floor, occasionally acknowledging that they need to grow up, and putting off the actual growth until sometime tomorrow. However, into their lives comes the mysterious, Mephistophelean character named, only in the program, Good Intentions (brought to life with a mellifluously creepy joy by Joie Bauer). He manipulates himself into their apartment, and then, through the use of the late nite infomercial, into their brains, and sets them on the path of obsessive self-improvement.
It is testament to the skill of (and chemistry between) Hakim and Perez that the scenes between Holly and Brady, which, objectively speaking, go on too long and are about nothing in particular, are always engaging and fun to watch—they move quickly and naturally enough that you could almost convince yourself they're being improvised. Hakim, in particular, is a total joy to watch, and it is a delight to see the two of them blather about minutiae, even if one part of your mind starts itching for the plot to advance itself.
Though the play runs about an hour and ten minutes, there seem to be two different shows going on at once. One is the broadly comic examination of our heroes' twentysomething inertia; the second is about the supernatural insertion of Good Intentions, and the havoc he creates by making them all too aware of what needs to change in their lives. I very much enjoyed the former, and though the latter intrigued me, I wish I could say that the two worlds existed harmoniously. However, the supernatural element muddies the piece. Good Intentions is clearly a malevolent character, and, given what happens to Holly and Brady in the play's final moments, the "control" he gives them is a destructive thing. Because of this, I was unsure of what the play was trying to tell me. That it's better to not have control of one's life? That trying to be disciplined and proactive about self-improvement is a dangerous thing? The message of the play might be "stay true to yourself," but its extreme shift into darkness at the end reads more as, "don't even bother."
All that being said, this is certainly a group of talented actors—the fluid direction of Lucia A. Peters deserves mention, as well—and Hinds's script shows a commanding grasp of dialogue and quirky characterization. I certainly look forward to seeing what they have to offer next.