I was too sick to do any playgoing last week, so my drama column in this morning’s Wall Street Journal is divided between speculation on this Sunday’s Tony Awards and a brisk pan of Chinese Friends:
Overheard on the street immediately after a performance of “Chinese Friends”: “That’s the worst play I ever saw! What the hell happened to Jon Robin Baitz?” Beats me. Mr. Baitz is, or was, a talented playwright, but you wouldn’t guess it from watching this preposterous mess, which runs through June 13 at Playwrights Horizons. I’m not quite prepared to call it the worst show I’ve ever seen–I survived “The Look of Love”–but it’s worse than “Prymate,” which is saying something.
“Chinese Friends” is all the more disappointing because it’s based on an interesting premise. What might the U.S. look like after the Red America-Blue America political split finally resolves itself? In Mr. Baitz’s dystopian fantasy, set in 2030, the big bad Bushies gave way to a group of tough-minded liberal policy wonks who lost patience with the soft-headed electorate and opted for a stealthy form of fascism they called “soft power.” When that didn’t work out, Dr. Arthur Brice (Peter Strauss, made up to look like Donald Rumsfeld), the gray eminence of the Killer Humanists, withdrew to a remote New England island to hide from his enemies and await his second coming.
Enter his estranged son Ajax (Tyler Francavilla), who unexpectedly turns up on Brice’s doorstep with two hippie-type friends (Bess Wohl and Will McCormack) in tow. At first it appears that the arrival of this motley m