In Public

Manhattan Theatre Source . By George Hunka. Dir. Isaac Butler. With ensemble cast.

ALFRESCO Daryl Lathon, Silliman and Thomas, from left, meet outdoors.

ALFRESCO Daryl Lathon, Silliman and Thomas, from left, meet outdoors. Photograph: Jef Betz/Reel Alchemy

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

George Hunka’s incisive, sharply observed In Public picks up on a central but overlooked fact of New York life: Much of our private existence is played out in the open. The four main characters—two married couples grappling with a possible infidelity in their ranks—live half their waking hours in cafs, restaurants and Duane Reades. Hunka (a TONY contributor) and director Isaac Butler deftly communicate this reality in ways both subtle (an ever-present soundtrack of background music) and not-so-subtle (a circling chorus of waiters, bartenders and strangers, all played with a touch too much hamminess by the appealing, aptly named Brian Silliman.)

Hunka’s premise, while elemental, leads to a built-in situational theatricality. Because the characters are exposed to the world’s gaze at times of personal crisis, their behavior remains formal and their speech somewhat stilted. Given that the subject is marriage, and that three of the four spouses are academics, it’s a very Albee-ish atmosphere, albeit one with a Neil LaBute--like twist at the end. But Hunka is less cruel and more empathetic than those two writers.

The actors give exceptionally thoughtful, considered performances, with Jennifer Gordon Thomas, the potentially wronged wife, a strikingly grounded, lived-in presence. This production is the inaugural offering by Theatre Minima, whose mission is to strip the stage down to its “essential elements—the living body and the spoken word.” After In Public, all one can say is: mission accomplished. — Robert Simonson