Theater review by Regina Robbins
On paper, Nora (Layla Khosh) seems like a classy lady. She’s got a Ph.D. in musicology, specializing in the Baroque period, and teaches on the college level. Yet despite her impressive academic background, she’s a hard-drinking mess with low self-esteem, carrying on an affair with married colleague Michael (Curran Connor). Both are enamored of Henry Purcell’s 1680 opera Dido and Aeneas, and Nora insists they are soul mates. But she won’t be truly happy until she can win the approval of her mother, Julie (Dalia Davi), who is Southern, refined and religious (and possibly a lesbian).
Although this hot-mess scenario may not seem especially original, playwright Abby Rosebrock—who also costars as Nora’s romantic rival—pushes her comedy into darker-than-dark territory with bold flourishes (including rapid-fire Gilmore Girls–style dialogue) and a mind-bending second-act twist. Not wanting to tip her hand too early, however, director Mikhaela Mahony establishes a broadly comedic tone that doesn’t fully encompass Dido of Idaho's disturbing underpinnings; instead of being prepared for its alarming detours, we feel like we just got punked. Ultimately, this smart and amusing play has the same problem as its central figure: It doesn't quite live up to its potential.
Ensemble Studio Theatre (Off Broadway). By Abby Rosebrock. Directed by Mikhaela Mahony. With Layla Khosh, Dalia Davi, Rosebrock. Running time: 2 hrs. One intermission.
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