The Way We Get By: Theater review by Adam Feldman
It isn’t easy to write about Neil LaBute’s latest play without giving away the big reveal at its halfway mark. That’s because The Way We Get By is not much more than this reveal: It has the diffuseness of a high-concept 20-minute piece that's been expanded to fit a larger volume, with no mass added. Doug (Thomas Sadoski) and Beth (Amanda Seyfried) have just had sex for the first time, though they’ve wanted to do so for a while. He’s a slightly nervous fellow who is fussy about his Star Wars T-shirt; she’s a pretty girl who wants to be appreciated for more than her looks, and who has a controlling roommate named Kim. (Although the play is 80 minutes long, that is more or less all we learn about them as individuals.) Having sealed the deal, are they brave enough to follow through on it? And are we patient enough to care?
Most of the play consists of loud bickering and small-talk filler. This is meant to suggest a morning-after dance of negotiations, as in Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. But while it’s nice to see LaBute working in a less misanthropic mode than usual, the characters are drawn too sketchily to support it, and the actors have little chemistry. Sadoski carries most of the weight; Seyfried, in her stage debut, commits strongly to vague choices. Even as LaBute fills in their history, their present stays flat. The play is a glazy cruller: one big twist with a hole in the middle.—Adam Feldman
Second Stage Theatre (Off Broadway). By Neil LaBute. Directed by Leigh Silverman. With Thomas Sadoski, Amanda Seyfried. Running time: 1hr 20mins.
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