Winners: Theater review by Helen Shaw
In Maggie Bofill's weirdly retrograde comedy Winners, we meet a family already disintegrating. Dad Brian (Grant Shaud) has been unemployed for a year, mother Mabel (Florencia Lozano) is overburdened and distant, son Tommy (David Gelles) knows an explosive secret about his ex-boss, and daughter Gabby (Arielle Goldman) is a haphazardly written, artsy-awkward, eloquent-silent 11-year-old. There are some good performances here, but the show’s farcical outer layer conceals ugly politics: We reach twin climaxes when Dad finally manages to issue an order to his wife and Tommy buys a stupidly expensive trash can.
If this fable is meant as pitch-black comment on our culture's repulsive man-as-protector messaging, Pamela Berlin's sentimental production doesn't seem to know it. (“I got you,” characters coo to each other, as no one, anywhere, ever does.) Still, the cast is game, and this alone makes the show occasionally likable. Also, in the piece's cleverest conceit, deft comic actors Curran Connor and Stephanie Hsu play the family pets. They comment on the family's dynamics by yakking up plastic vomit or peeing on the set. Depending on your sensitivity to gender politics, you might wind up a little queasy, too.—Helen Shaw
Ensemble Studio Theater (see Off Broadway). By Maggie Bofill. Directed by Pamela Berlin. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission.