An alternate title for Matthew Freeman’s languorous couples drama That Which Isn’t could have been The Long Goodbye. It’s an extended eulogy for a marriage that, by every characters’ account, wasn’t all that great in the first place. With their imminent divorce looming, Helen (Moira Stone) and James (David DelGrosso) pass a long night sitting under a tree in a stranger’s field, wallowing in the past and sometimes wallowing in each other. In the second half of the play, we see a world-weary Helen’s dinner with James’s friend Marcus (Mick O’Brien) in the wake of an event that shook up both their lives.
The back half is the reason to see this show. Freeman has an ear for tense naturalism, putting Helen and Marcus through all the paces of an awkward night out: cell phones vibrating on the table, an argument over the wine selection that’s really an argument about something much heavier. It makes it all the more frustrating that the first act is bogged down with heavy-handed philosophizing and meandering conversations that start to sound like white noise after a while.
Throughout, Stone delivers a magnetic, brittle central performance—particularly when playing off O’Brien as a convincingly frazzled fellow caught in the crosshairs. DelGrosso, on the other hand, gives a declarative, stiff turn as James. Both as written and performed, James is a much more interesting guy when he isn’t in the room (or the field). In fact, That Which Isn’t would be a stronger piece if Freeman hacked off the first act. As the title suggests, sometimes the absence of something can speak louder than its all-too-literal presence.
The Brick (Off-Off Broadway). By Matthew Freeman. Directed by Kyle Ancowitz. With Moira Stone, David DelGrosso, Mick O’Brien. Running time: 1hr 45mins. One intermission. Through Aug 20. Click here for full venue and ticket information.