Off-Broadway / The Players Theatre / NYC
On through 17 June
In Randall David Cook’s newest play, Brock, a twenty-something man is walking down a cold New York City street when he is propositioned by a desperate older woman named Lilah. Despite being caught off-guard, the guy goes to her place for some cookies and a little badonkadonk. What unfolds over this and the three short acts that follow is a “Graduate”-esque relationship with far more layers. In addition to these two, we also meet, Susan, this young man’s mother, a tough yet likable New York senator who is running for President and trying to escape the shadow of her husband’s political career. Wait a minute! There’s the fear of the relationship hitting the press and hurting Mommy Dearest’s chances at sitting by the red phone, and the usual worries that were brought to light by films like “Chasing Liberty” and “First Daughter.” Beyond the world of secrets and lies that each character starts to spin, there is a quiet hum that underscores the story. There are only three characters in this play, and there are many ways that they can be connected to one another. But what Cook seems to be showing us, is in fact, the broken shell of America, where we are all on top of one another and extraordinarily separate. Brock works all day dealing with the anonymity of dead American soldiers coming back from the war. He has a blog (don’t we all) where he deposits all his adventures of the day. Lilah collects old photos of people she doesn’t know and surrounds her apartment with them as a kind of substitute family. And Susan, the politician, is constantly surrounded by people, yet always alone on that stage, further illuminating the solitary life that she has chosen for herself.
For us in the dark, in the very cramped seats of the Players Club, we are witness to a tightly-woven story about lookin’ for love in all the wrong places. Jed Orlemann as Brock has both the acting chops and the matinee idol looks to charm everyone around him, and bring full life to his character, misguided as that character may be. Donna Mitchell as Susan never misses a beat, and beguiles us with Cook’s snappy, acerbic one-liners. And Elizabeth Norment is every bit the desperado that one might imagine. She’s about two cats and a “Golden Girls” marathon shy of being beyond hope. The big trouble with the story is the pull towards this very sad woman. Is desperation a turn-on to some people? Did I miss a Sunday Styles article? But it’s the central relationship, so we have to suspend disbelief, however awkward it is to watch. Beyond the smoochy stuff, there are plenty of places Cook could take the story, but he picks his battles very well, and only a few times towards the end lets them bubble up to near-purple temperatures. Thankfully, for the most part, it’s timely, it’s true, it’s engaging. And it’ll supply plenty of chatting points for the pub afterward.