Review: Sweet and Sad

A family gathers on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

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  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

  • Photograph: Joan Marcus

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

    Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

Photograph: Joan Marcus

Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

Sweet and Sad at the Public Theater

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

The Apples don't fall far from the tree in Richard Nelson's second play about his chatty New York clan, who convene upstate in Rhinebeck to eat, share personal news and shake their heads over the national mood. In last year's That Hopey Changey Thing, they dined and grew fractious over midterm elections, increasing despair over Obama's inability to get anything done and the frightful drumbeat of Tea Partiers on the march. This time, as they gather on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the mood is more hushed and reverent, but fearful anger pulses beneath the funereal decorum.

Writer-director Nelson couldn't ask for a keener bunch of actors to walk us tenderly and intelligently through his dining-room realism, in which voices are low and the speeches unvarnished, even affectingly awkward. The three Apple sisters—schoolteachers Barbara (Maryann Plunkett) and Marian (Laila Robins) and book author Jane (J. Smith-Cameron)—meet with their brother, Richard (Jay O. Sanders), a corporate lawyer who used to work for Andrew Cuomo. Jane's actor boyfriend, Tim (Shuler Hensley), also visits, and (vaguely) following the conversation is uncle Benjamin (Jon DeVries), an actor who had a heart attack and now suffers from amnesia.

is drama in a minor key, subdued but intense. Its primary actions are emotional or cogitative: remembering, regretting, musing on the power of art and the powerlessness of the poor. I missed the first installment of this family trilogy, but now, having met the Apples, I look forward to dining with them again, probably on Election Day 2012.

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Public Theater. Written and directed by Richard Nelson. With ensemble cast. 1hr 50mins. No intermission. See complete event information

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