Play Nice

Robin Rice Lichtig

March 15, 2011 performance  (played at 59 E 59 Theatres March 8-27)

This play was produced at the 59 E 59 Theatres at 59 East 59th Street in Manhattan.  It takes a dysfunctional family through dysfunctional paces in a dysfunctional play.

Mother Diamond has attempted suicide and is in the hospital.  Young daughter Isabelle is allowed to believe, by her older sister Matilda, that she may have attempted matricide by rat poison.  Brother Luce goes on rants which would make us believe he is the crazy one in the family except for the fact that they all go in and out of make-believe so often that it is never sure when they are themselves or the fantasy characters to which they escape from their excruciating realities.

Laura Hankin was pretty good as Isabelle.  I didn’t think so at first, but when she morphed into her mother as soon as she donned her dress, the contrast was stark enough to make me believe that the ingenuous character she created for Isabelle was by design and not acting limitation. Hard to evaluate actors in such an all-over-the-place play, so let’s just say that they all have potential to grow. 

Lichtig writes dark themed plays.  An image she gave us here was her mother’s having her stomach pumped, not, as we discover, because she was poisoned by Belle. 

Was Belle fantasizing when she saw an egg stain on Matilda’s blouse and blamed it on her boyfriend, or was she in crazyspeak mode?  So often that same question had to be asked.

Following the train of thought here becomes quickly irrelevant as it is stream of consciousness.  I can’t even follow my own stream so I just let it sweep me away.  There is no percentage in trying to follow someone else’s.  Unfortunately Lichtig is speaking more to herself than her audience.  We are excluded.  The question is, does the playwright know and not care, or does she really expect us to find her demons more interesting to follow than our own?

One good thought in this play.  When Isabelle feels betrayed for being lied to she says “Lying is completely different from pretending;  pretending is for figuring things out.”  We get that. 

But If lying is different from pretending, so then is avante-garde different from arcane.

I go to the theatre to be entertained.  If I am enlightened that is a plus.  I don’t go to work and to try to follow wacky wabbits as they escape from wacky wabbit holes

I have seen three of Robin Rice Lichtig’s plays in the past, one a brief one-act which I enjoyed and one an autobiographical memoir “Suki Livingston Opens Like a Parachute” which was stunning in its revelation, as if she had bared her soul and displayed it for us.  The other full-length work, the “Power of Birds,” failed to move or entertain me, and this, well, likewise.

I do believe Ms. Lichtig has a fine full-length play in her.  I admire her intelligence and diligence.  But if she doesn’t get that avante garde can be entertaining, she is destined to play to small audiences in small theatres for short runs for her entire career. 

I understand why “Play Nice” was played without intermission.