nytheatre.com review by Nicole Higgins
July 16, 2009
In Adam Samtur's Family Symmetry, a husband and wife struggle against stagnation and fear of change with the additional challenge of a mental disorder to bar the way to communication and happiness. It's a sad story and a very real one. People get a little older and the decisions they made a few years ago, which seemed all right in the short term, become the ticking time bombs of the present as habits deepen. In this piece the idea of a husband's OCD (and possibly other related disorders) is the backdrop for the stagnant rigidity of a relationship based more on physical attraction than forthright communication.
The play opens and we quickly take in the behavioral oddities of the couple, and for a moment I forget who is supposed to be the one with the illness, which is excellent. Right from the beginning we see the enmeshment of this couple and learn through the early scenes that Allen (Leo Goodman) is a trader with a mental illness, and Suzanne (Olivia Gilliatt), his wife, has basically given up her entire life to enable his habits. We are given some exposition that informs us they are high school sweethearts, which may be the only way to believe Suzanne's continued support of such a controlling husband.
We also find out that Allan had been institutionalized a few years before, and that Suzanne fears his behavior is deteriorating. She passive-aggressively enlists her ex-best-friend Linda, whom she "broke up" with to sate the paranoia of her husband, to prod her into action. There are some murky waters in the text about a doctor suggesting she give up this friend, which to me didn't ring true according to the current treatments of OCD and related disorders.
Then a piece of information is introduced, which will change the lives of the couple and Linda forever. I won't give away what happens, but it's pretty morbid. In the world of this play the actions taken are basically inevitable.
Goodman does subtle work with the task he is given in this piece, incorporating behavioral quirks within the humorous falsely upbeat rhythms of his character. The few moments when his character was brought to a moment of rage, I felt danger. Gilliatt, as Suzanne, is given a hard role here as long-suffering wife, but she still manages to get us to empathize with her. Lisa Pettersson's role as Linda almost seemed as if it was first written for a male actor, and I'm not sure if I believed where the text pushed her to go.