Michael Tucker’s play “Fern Hill,” directed by Nadia Tass, features a superb group of six actors who are more enjoyable than the characters they portray. One can be entertained watching this group, and yet not wind up emotionally moved by what the characters created by Tucker go through in the course of the dramatic fireworks that occur when revelations surface as they are gathered at the Fern Hill farmhouse for an unusual purpose.
The six have been friends for many years and now the suggestion has arisen that they move in together in a co-op arrangement that will be convenient as they grow older. Jessica Parks has designed a spacious living area, including an open kitchen.
There is plenty of light banter at the outset. Mark Blum plays Jer, a writer. Jill Eikenberry is his wife, Sunny, who is an artist, and they own the farmhouse where the six have gathered during the years of friendship.
John Glover, is Vincent, the oldest, also an artist, and who at the outset of the play is facing hip replacement surgery. His photographer wife, Darla, is played by Ellen Parker, and she is torn over whether to go to Europe for a breakthrough exhibit of her work or stay to tend her husband. Mark Linn-Baker plays Billy, a rock musician frequently on the road, who loves to cook and provides endless amusing chatter. He is married to the attractive Michiko, played by Jodi Long.
As you see, that is quite an aggregation, and during the course of the drama all hell breaks loose when the focus is on Jer for his cheating on Sunny, who becomes deeply upset. What emerges is a kind of group therapy session in which other secrets are spilled as the friends try to help Jer and Sunny come to terms with each other and also find that they must sort out their own lives.
The play succeeds in stripping the characters bare, and the quality of the acting makes watching them lively. But are these people you feel like getting close to and really caring about what happens to them? Viewers will probably have differing responses to this question, and that will color overall reactions to the play. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Phone: 646-892-7999. Reviewed September 20, 2019.