Artifice runs rampant in Alex DeWitt's "The Lunch," an ambitious new comedy that tries to imagine what it would be like if "Sex and the City" were written by Pirandello. It is a play about dreams clashing with reality in a semi-surreal world. That it succeeded far more often than it didn't speaks for the amusing conceit of its premise, the generally fine level of the writing, the outrageously on-target performances and the rock-solid production delivered by director Fern R. Lopez.
The strongest aspect of DeWitt's script is the clever way in which she savagely comments on every kind of NYC personality waging total war with one another, while keeping things as light and sometimes as frothy as a mid-'60s sex farce. While every single character could be deemed offensive, nothing offended, because of the humorous but clear-sighted truth behind the work's conception and delivery. While it took a while to warm up to its Absurdist tone, and it lacks a satisfying ending, it nevertheless is an ambitiously entertaining work that stings and soothes concurrently.
DeWitt took on the most obnoxious character, an aging, self-involved movie star on the downslide of her career, and turned her into an obnoxious, whining, and shrieking delight. She was matched every step of the way by Joan Pelzer and Sharon Anne Frances as her two best friends, Pelzer alternately glowing and glowering as an expectant mother, Frances surgically precise as a woman clawing her way up the corporate ladder. J.T. O'Connor, as the only male member of the cast, managed to be both wimpy and authoritarian at the same time, and his take as a befuddled, helpless director was a scream. Ericka Kreutz was simply perfect as the much-put-upon waitress who served the women much more than the titular lunch.
The restaurant setting by Josh Zangen was gorgeous, and beautifully lighted by Jeffery Koger. Jonathan Starr's costumes were also terrific, changing with astute aplomb as the women and script dictated.
If The Lunch sometimes suffered from an excess of cleverness and ambition, DeWitt nevertheless is a playwright with a point of view and the talent to back it up, and her work was presented with the care and expertise that every young playwright deserves.
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Copyright 2003 Doug DeVita