George Hunka (a/k/a Mr. Superfluities) and Isaac Butler (a/k/a Mr. Parabasis) are two of the smartest theater bloggers around. They are also gifted theater professionals, and I just got back from the opening night of their latest collaboration. In Public is a play written by George and directed by Isaac. This is its second off-off-Broadway production. I saw the premiere a year ago and was impressed. I found it even more impressive this time around.
In Public is the dark, discomfiting tale of two uneasily married couples whose lives become entangled. George describes it this way:
In Public is a play about two married couples over a long weekend in which desires may or may not be fulfilled; we don’t know, since it’s played out in public spaces; we’re not allowed into their private spheres, either of the couples or of the individual characters themselves. So we interpret: We decide what we can know about them based on their very stylized, self-consciously constructed public characters. Sometimes the persona doesn’t match the true self (which is always undergoing renovation) at all; sometimes it matches the self to a considerable depth and extent. It’s also about how much we choose to open ourselves to our closest partners and to near-complete strangers, and the personal risks involved in each kind of contact.
That’s a very intellectual-sounding statement, as well it should be, George being a very serious intellectual. Yet one of the most striking things about In Public is that it’s really funny–but in a way that makes you snicker and squirm at the same time. This is a play full of unnerving silences that crackle with unspoken anger, then are filled by uncomfortable laughter. Isaac has staged it with cool, crisp simplicity, and the five superb actors who make up the cast each give sharply individual performances that stick in the mind. Best of all is Jennifer Gordon Thomas, a remarkable performer who has great things ahead of her.
In Public is the first production of theatre minima, a new ensemble founded by George Hunka with “the intent of stripping the theatre to its essential elements–the living body and the spoken word.” It runs through next Tuesday at manhattantheatresource. I recommend it enthusiastically.
For more information, go here.