Relationships Gone Bad
By Amy J. Barry
Special to Living
Existentialists quoting Bible scripture, searching for their authentic selves…murder, mayhem, physical and mental cruelty…married men kissing (each other)…miscarriages and nervous breakdowns…it's just an average week in the lives of two privileged New York couples in The Yale Rep world premiere of David Adjmi's The Evildoers.
I'm not sure I have a clue what Adjmi's message is and there isn't much chance I'll be giving away the ending in this review-if only I had the slightest inkling-but whatever the playwright is trying to convey when you unwrap the layers and layers of metaphors, he says it like gangbusters.
And thanks to a sensational cast, a splashy set (Riccardo Hernandez) splendid costumes (Susan Hilferty), and the swiftest moving direction by Rebecca Bayla Taichman, The Evildoers keeps its audience alternately amused, amazed, and downright horrified.
Carol (Johanna Day) and Jerry (Stephen Barker Turner) join with best friends Judy (Samantha Soule) and Martin (Matt McGrath) in an upscale Manhattan restaurant to celebrate their eighth anniversary.
Their dysfunctional relationships are apparent from the get-go. Whether it's Soule as the manic, frightened Judy; McGrath as the twisted yet truth-seeking Martin; Day as the cynical, on-the-attack Carol; or Turner as the in-denial, yet funny and likable Jerry, each member of this ensemble fully realizes his or her character and plays the part with astounding conviction-which is no easy feat as their characters are so convoluted and off-the-wall.
Dinner ends abruptly with an angry outburst from Martin, who attempts to break through the walls of conceit and complacency he sees in the others and in keeping with his sentiments, the set quite literally shatters to explosive metal music, transforming into Jerry and Carol's chrome-and- glass penthouse with its ultra-stylish furniture and perfectly polished floors that the characters slip and slide on as though they're performing a 21st-century Vaudeville routine.
Carol announces she's pregnant and then miscarries, pretending it means nothing. Martin announces that he's gay, ending the sham of his own marriage, and then spends the rest of the play attempting to get the other broken souls to get real and connect with each other. Like some sort of bizarre vampire, he both breathes life into and sucks life out of his friends and/or victims.
It says in publicity for the show that Adjmi admitted that he and Taichman stayed up many nights during rehearsals trying to figure out what the play is about. What a relief that he's not even sure! Yet, like viewing an abstract expressionist canvas, everyone will probably take something different away from this production-some will love it, some will hate it, some will fear it, and some will find moments that resonate with them, like when a grieving Jerry in a rare and pure moment of honesty, disrobes and bares his soul to his wife.
One could sum the whole thing up as Jean-Paul Sartre and the Old Testament collide in The Twilight Zone. But whatever The Evildoers is about, be ready for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and whatever you do, DO NOT bring the kids.