Playing with Grown Ups: In brief
The Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 continues with a play by Hannah Patterson in which a woman's seemingly tidy life is mussed by the return of an ex-lover. Hannah Eidinow directs the American premiere.
Playing with Grown Ups: Theater review by Diane Snyder
The lighthearted title of Playing with Grown Ups disguises a darker core. Set over the course of a single evening, Hannah Patterson’s surprising and intermittently effective play, presented as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival, casts a nonjudgmental eye on a 40-year-old first-time mother who finds no pleasure in parenting.
Joanna (Trudi Jackson) cranks up the volume on her music to cover her baby daughter’s cries, downs multiple glasses of wine even though she’s breastfeeding and longs to return to her publishing job, where she rescues forgotten female authors from obscurity. She’s pushed to her limits when her film-professor husband, Robert (Mark Rice-Oxley), invites over Jake (Alan Cox), a colleague who’s also their old college chum, and Stella (Daisy Hughes), the 17-year-old (!) whom the unattached Jake has been seeing. Despite her youth, Stella is easily the most centered of the bunch, and it’s in Jake’s and Stella’s presence—thanks to vigorous performances from Cox and Hughes—that Hannah Eidinow’s able production is at its best.
As the evening wears on, it’s clear that Joanna isn’t going to succumb to the warm glow of motherhood; her disconnect to her child comes out in a frightening discourse with Robert. There are echoes of A Doll’s House and a refreshing lack of preachiness, but although Joanna’s not condemned for her chilliness, she isn’t fully fleshed out either, despite Jackson’s explosive performance. In her hands, Joanna is as spiky as she is fragile, and still very much playing at being an adult.—Theater review by Diane Snyder
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