DramaNew YorkReview

2 Across – St. Luke’s Theater, New York

Writer: Jerry Mayer

Director: Evelyn Rudie

Reviewer: Jamie Rosler

Two people, a man and a woman, ride the BART train in San Francisco at 4:30 a.m., each attempting to finish The New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle. From the first stilted interaction, the conclusion is clear. These two seemingly mismatched people will find a connection, and a so-called happy ending is inevitable. The journey to that ending is unexciting and trite, peppered with lazily written jokes and awkward physical blocking.

Josh and Janet, as we eventually find out are their names, have, in theory, complicated and interesting histories. He is a currently unemployed middle-aged Jewish man with commitment issues and an inability to finish what he starts. She is a middle-aged Catholic psychologist with a son who just dropped out of high school to join the Marines. Basing a love connection on the notion that opposites attract might potentially make for a fascinating study of human interactions, but simply relying on the acceptance of that axiom to propel an entire play, without any other plausible reason behind the characters’ journeys, makes for uninspired and unentertaining theatre. There is no truth in this production, no depth of character, and no surprises.

Andrea McArdle, perhaps best known for originating the title rôle in Annie, offers a half-hearted performance that rests on the potential for expression of a few external signals, some of which seem markedly misaligned to the intention. Her delivery is hardly distinguishable from one moment to the next, and there is no sign of the emotional and psychological journey her character allegedly takes during this early morning train ride to love and acceptance. Granted, Janet is not a well-written character. There are several interactions in which Janet says “no,” in what at first appears to be a definitive and clear response to a query, only to eventually say “yes,” for no observably decent reason other than having been asked the same thing three times. As we all know, if you ask a woman three times, she has to say yes. It’s called the “Old White Male Playwright’s Law”.

McArdle and co-star Kip Gilman might not like each other offstage. This is based on no personal knowledge of their relationship, but it seems like a reasonable explanation to their complete lack of chemistry. Perhaps it’s a failure of direction rather than a personal issue between actors, but Janet and Josh are stiff together, seeming to walk through the paces of the show with no personal stake in the outcome. This encounter between strangers should feel like the highest stake moment either has had in years, and instead it just feels like a poorly written play—complete with an Anthony Weiner joke—that is still in the middle of rehearsals.

The weak opening scene might be the most unfortunate part of this production, as it taints any potentially stronger moments later on, of which there are a small few. A great production of a bad script can still be a good production, but a mediocre production of a bad script is just a waste of money.

Runs until 31 Jabuary 2015 | Image: Contributed

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