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New Light Theater Project , New York City

The most well-known work of playwright extraordinaire Yasmina Reza can perhaps universally be termed as “fun.” Most notably in ART and God of Carnage, one can count on all the insecurities of the modern intellectual class being set loose, as the audience cracks up watching them continue to present themselves as righteous, if not put-together. Her more experimental Life x3 explores this same ground, but lacks the focus and purpose that permits each zinger to further escalate the action into childish behavior, and the incoherency of New Light Theater Project’s production seems to take out all the fun.

Henri and Sophia (James Patrick Nelson and Claire Curtis-Ward) are a perfectly normal unhappy couple whose attempt at a quiet evening is disturbed by the growing restlessness of their offstage 6-year-old and an unexpected visit from Hubert and Ines (Dominic Compartore and Leah Curney) – a visit they could have sworn was on the calendar for dinner the following night. Over wine and hastily prepared snacks, the main subjects of conversation include the state of Henri’s lagging cosmic research, the ladder in Ines’ stocking, how many chocolate fingers are left, and how little they can all stand one another. Unfortunately, it’s mostly snide without substance: the two scenes that follow are versions of the first, but with arbitrary changes that mean to point out some larger truth. The actors and director seem to get lost in a work of Reza’s that reads more like a writing exercise, an etude, rather than a fully composed play. Earnest stabs are made at uncovering the piece’s message, but they fall short, resulting in missed opportunities of living in the play’s curious and eccentric nature.

Director Jerry Heymann follows Reza’s instruction of setting (“as abstract as possible…the suggestion of a living room”) somewhat predictably, and doesn’t quite unite the cast under the game Reza is getting at. The punches they throw at each other seem to bounce off or are otherwise mulled over, blurring the depths of the character’s relationships, histories, and overall purposes. The experience ends up being sort of a glaze, without distinguishable changes in beat.

The urgency and relevancy of this play is questionable. The device Reza employs, which involves small or large changes in circumstance to examine its effect on human behavior and destiny, has been furthered explored in Nick Payne’s “Constellations” and the commercial musical “If/Then.” In these works, and in all three parts of this play, a similar conclusion is reached about the binding nature of ego, and how to conduct oneself when powerlessness is truly acknowledged. But Life x3 is simply not as eventful, perhaps on purpose, reflecting the lack of hope in the true face of this knowledge. This production is unlikely to stir that mixed sense of dread, nor is it to evoke enjoyment along the way.

  • Comedy
  • By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton
  • Directed by Jerry Heymann
  • Cast includes: Dominic Comperatore, Leah Curney, Claire Curtis-Ward, James Patrick Nelson
  • New Light Theater Project , New York City

  • Until 8 December 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (USA)

Ben Odom is a NYC-based actor and singer. He trained at Syracuse University, and currently studies improv and sketch comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade, and scene study at The Barrow Group.

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