Review: Side Effects

Michael Weller returns to marital combat in this domestic two-hander.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Three years after MCC Theater presented Michael Weller's Fifty Words—in which an unhappily married Brooklyn couple verbally chomped on each other for 90 minutes—the spousal sparring continues with the play's companion piece, the brash two-hander Side Effects. The results are as unsettling and outrageously gratifying as before.

Weller and director David Auburn (Pulitzer-winning playwright of Proof) owe a great debt to Joely Richardson, so irresistibly captivating as Lindy, bipolar wife of rather dull Midwestern businessman Hugh (Smith), who harbors political ambitions. At times it seems as if Richardson and Smith are boxing in different weight divisions, but their onstage alchemy consistently compels. Lindy has been carrying on an affair with a former lover (the husband from Fifty Words) during business trips. A dazzling fireball, especially when she doesn't take her meds (which appears to be most of the time), Lindy's a handful for Hugh, who does what he can to rein her in and prevent bad press.

As their lives implode, Weller's acute eye for depicting the rapid, oceanic mood changes between couples nursing an equal measure of desire and disgust for each other allows one to forgive some of the more conventional extravagances of a play that falls between the marital ferocity of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the sensational delights of a classic Dynasty episode. Weller's battlefronts take place far from wars on the other side of the globe, but his domestic combat leaves behind plenty of internal injuries.

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Lucille Lortel Theatre. By Michael Weller. Dir. David Auburn. With Joely Richardson, Cotter Smith. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.