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Public Theater, East Village Sunday April 27 2014 14:00

The Library. Public Theater (see Off Broadway). By Scott Z. Burns. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. With Chloë Grace Moretz. Running time: 1hr 25mins. No intermission.

The Library: In brief

Eclectic film auteur Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Behind the Candelabra) turns his eye to the stage for the premiere of a drama by Scott Z. Burns, starring the fast-rising Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie) as a survivor of a high-school shooting. The cast of eight also includes Jennifer Westfeldt, Tamara Tunie and Lili Taylor.

The Library: Theater review by Adam Feldamn

Playing Caitlin, a school-shooting victim dragged through a media gantlet, the remarkable Chloë Grace Moretz glows with her particular aura of pale, skeptical fortitude. She needs every bit of it in screenwriter Scott Z. Burns’s underdeveloped The Library, which takes a worthy subject—the mutation of narratives in the aftermath of tragedy—then leads it into a cul-de-sac. A collegiate effort, the play seems like the product of an all-nighter; as if he had run out of time, at the end Burns trades ambiguity for a group recitation of a police report and quotes from Cold Mountain and Winesburg, Ohio.

Film director Steven Soderbergh’s gift for extracting natural performances from actors yields strong work on that front: Jennifer Westfeldt and Michael O’Keefe are just right as Caitlin’s quasisupportive parents, who are not sure whether to believe her account of what happened; Lili Taylor, as the resiliently religious mother of one of Caitlin’s murdered schoolmates, cuts deep in her opening monologue. But Soderbergh, who has little experience directing for the stage, floods the production with “theatrical” effects (bright walls of color, minimal sets, loud white noise) whose Robert Wilson–esque artifice does this small play no favors. The director and writer both have overstuffed their training bras.—Theater review by Adam Feldman

THE BOTTOM LINE Movie pros Burns and Soderbergh flub their stage entrances.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam

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Venue name: Public Theater
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Address: 425 Lafayette St
New York

Cross street: between Astor Pl and E 4th St
Transport: Subway: N, R to 8th St–NYU; 6 to Astor Pl