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Judy: Theater review by Helen Shaw
The grimmest thing about Max Posner's bittersweet new comedy is his vision of the future. It looks—gird yourself—just like now. Set in 2040, Judy imagines a time when we all stay glued to our computer screens (panicking when the system goes down) and shlump around in Uggs on the basement couch when life upstairs gets too difficult. Science-fiction writers are always writing about the "then” so they can sneak in commentary about the “now,” but Posner strips most of the speculation and gee-whiz out of it. The effect is slightly disorienting; you leave Judy wondering if you've just seen something somehow worse than the apocalypse.
Siblings Tara (Birgit Huppuch), Kris (Deirdre O'Connell) and Timothy (Danny Wolohan) are all facing familiar problems—Tara is worried about her start-up and her kid Kalvin (Luka Kain); Kris's attraction to the 20-year-old on-call computer tech (Marcel Spears) might actually be going somewhere; and poor Timothy has just been abandoned by his wife, the titular (and never-seen) Judy. All want to move on or move forward, but Posner's anti-futuristic setting gives us a clue as to how well they'll do. If the world doesn't change much, how can they?
Director Ken Rus Schmoll has assembled a downtown dream team—the piece could have been written for these actors, all playing sad-sack with hilarious, laser-scalpel precision. Wolohan in particular is keenly funny as the in-denial cuckold, dizzy in his spiral of despair, but still trying to stay super positive for his daughter Eloise (Frenie Acoba). She has—as everyone says with weird gravitas—just become “a woman,” and Posner's smoothest dramaturgical move is the way he grounds the play in the teen’s menses, structuring the play around Eloise's monthly periods. (The father always has to call his sisters to help out with pads.) This provides both repetition and acceleration, since it leaves Timothy straining for sufficiently upbeat, with-it fathering language. “Isn't it great…how…the moon organizes everything into months?” he asks, eyes wild. And even though we're watching people flounder around in 2040 as lamely as they do today, you take a moment to realize, it sort of is.—Helen Shaw
New Ohio Theatre (Off-Off Broadway). By Max Posner. Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 5mins. One intermission.