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Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City

Continuity
4.0Reviewer's Rating

The question of global climate disaster is most comfortably viewed as a fiction; easy to digest, laugh at, sympathized with, and chat about without getting alarmist. In her latest work, Bess Wohl explores this very practice by handing over the most pressing moral and existential question of our time to a dysfunctional group of blockbuster filmmakers and actors, the turns of which prove that Wohl is not above questioning the nature of her own work along with how human nature is revealing itself when disaster is at the doorstep.

In six clips over the course of one day on set, disagreements are had, secrets are revealed, and broken set pieces are replaced. The push and pull of the everyday overshadows the worldly worries, played out by what is comparable to a group of realistic clowns. They are recognizable prima donnas, or newbies, or assholes, and are expanded upon with varying degrees of depth and believability. The whole of the circumstances are only put into perspective by the film’s climate consultant (a wonderful Max Baker), who occasionally gets a moment to wake up the filmmakers and the audience in turn, whose concerns are put second to that of the studio.

Wohl and director Rachel Chavkin are both proven to be among our most trailblazing practitioners in their endeavors. While Chavkin’s visions work best in vast or lush settings, Wohl is an expert in the finding the whole-heartedness of the mundane. The combinations of their strengths in something special, although “Continuity” doesn’t quite rise to the level of their superior “Small Mouth Sounds”. There are few uniting images that bind the audience with the story, nor are there many magnifying moments of humanity between the characters. Nevertheless, the play is trying out something that few plays are willing to face: that it’s willing to sit with its own ignorance and uncertainty. In both the film being made before our eyes, and in the world’s present circumstances, we’ve yet to find someone to shine the light in a hopeful direction.

Continuity is a worthy addition to recent major stage works that look at environmental catastrophe in the frame of an intimate drama, in which the most potent and frightening devastation only happens in the headlines. Wohl couples the oft-heard climate truth bombs with the more personal (and predictable) ones among our film team, and makes a stab at balancing, validating, and manifesting both of those complications. We can see with MTC’s “The Children” (by Lucy Kirkwood) last season, and New York Theater Workshop’s “Hurricane Diane” (by Madeleine George) this season, that we are still figuring out how to cope with what we know is coming, but can’t bear to even imagine for more than a few minutes at a time. Surely “Continuity” is among those landmark examples of what’s to come in the theater, and perhaps in the world at large.

  • Comedy
  • By Bess Wohl
  • Directed by Rachel Chavkin
  • Cast includes: Max Baker, Jasmine Batchelor, Rosal Colon, Curran Connor, Garcia, Darren Goldstein, Alex Hurt, Megan Ketch
  • Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City
  • Until 9 June 2019

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