Washer/Dryer: Theater review by Adam Feldman
“Honey! I’m home!” announces Michael (Johnny Wu) as he walks through the door at the start of Nandita Shenoy’s clunky new comedy, Washer/Dryer. The tone of that line suggests that the play means to evoke a sitcom from the 1950s; in fact it is much closer to television farces of the early 1980s, notably Three’s Company and Bosom Buddies. As in those shows, the plot hinges on an urban apartment that can only be retained through a queer form of deception: After a quickie marriage in Las Vegas, Michael must pretend to be gay so that his tense new Indian-American wife, Sonya (Shenoy), won’t lose her small but well-applianced studio in a co-op on the Upper East Side.
It may be asking too much of a farce to make perfect sense, but the good ones spin out wildly from a center of credibility that Washer/Dryer lacks. The entire premise of the show—that a New York City co-op could force a tenant out for getting married—is simply untrue. (It would be illegal to even try.) And the energies of the ethnically diverse cast are channeled into tired cultural stereotypes: the super-demanding Asian mother, Dr. Lee (the sharp Jade Wu), who disapproves of her son’s unworthy bride; the super-uptight white lady, Wendee (Annie McNamara ); the super-queeny black best friend, Sam (Jamyl Dobson), who sashays though lines like, “Gurl, I would know. I just found out that my best gal pal got married without so much as an ‘Oh Hey!’” Aside from Shenoy, who delivers her own dialogue stiffly, the actors find some moments of funny business between their lines, but there are only so many laughs to wring from material this washed out.—Adam Feldman
Beckett Theatre (Off Broadway). By Nandita Shenoy. Directed by Benjamin Kamine. With Shenoy, Johnny Wu. 1hr 15mins. No intermission.
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