By William Wolf

DOWNTOWN RACE RIOT  Send This Review to a Friend

The only thing functional, apart from the acting quality, in this dull look at a dysfunctional family and equally screwed up friends is the apartment set designed by Derek McLane. It is spread out across the width of the long stage, including a bedroom at each end, with a vestibule and a kitchen playing area in the middle.

The time is 1976, the locale Greenwich Village and the issue of the moment is a pending lethal demonstration against minorities. We don’t actually get to see the riot, which at least would enliven the play, written by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld, directed by Scott Elliott and presented by The New Group. The focus is primarily on the mostly uninteresting characters.

Mary Shannon, played in drab garb by the excellent and usually more attractive Chloë Sevigny, is a mother and drug addict. She tries to parent her son, Jimmy (David Levi), and daughter, Joyce (Sadie Scott). Jimmy is an angry mess, who, we ultimately learn, falsely believes he has asthma. Jimmy has a pal, Haitian-born Marcel “Massive” Baptiste (handsome Moise Morancy), who has been striving for acceptance. He wants Jimmy to take part in the planned riot, and so do Jimmy’s Italian-American friends, Tommy-Sick (Cristian DeMeo) and Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich), who apply pressure. To Jimmy’s credit, he doesn’t want to participate and phones to warn a friend not to go because his life will be in danger.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all of this, Marcel and Joyce have been getting it on in her bedroom, which we can watch, and when they take a break, Joyce is telling her mother in the other bedroom that she wants to leave the nest. Not to forget another character, Bob Gilman (Josh Pais), a lawyer, turns up to plot a dubious lawsuit with Mary, and also snort some cocaine with her. Of course, we can expect a bit of violence to erupt when the play leads up to what passes as a climax.

Unfortunately, for all of the sincere strivings of the fine cast members, the play doesn’t pack the strength needed to keep an audience in its grip. It rambles along for 90 minutes without an intermission, and when you come right down to it, the characters do not hold much interest as people to care about. But I did enjoy watching intriguing Chloë Sevigny, even in this drug-addled state. At the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed December 4, 2017.


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