I love clever titles. “If There Is I Have Not Found It Yet,” a new play by Nick Payne playing at Laura
Pels Theatre under the aegis of the Roundabout, piqued my interest. Turns out, the title describes the way I feel
about this bizarre water-flooded work. The playwright, who won the 2012 Harold
Pinter Playwright's Award and is commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre and
Manhattan Theatre Club to write a new play about math, science or technology,
has cobbled together the following subjects: the terrible effects of global
warming; the severe obesity of teenagers and the bullying because of it;
suicide; and possible infidelity, all to create havoc on stage. It is directed
by Michael Longhurst. (Set: Beowulf Boritt; Lighting Natasha Katz; Costumes Susan
Before the play begins, a rainfall pours down on the back of
the stage. All the furniture and props needed for the play are piled high in
the center of the stage. The actors pull off what they need when they need it.
They use a chair or table or lamp, and when they are finished with it- they
throw it into a trough filled with water running along the apron of the stage.
At first, it is clever and surprising, then rather annoying and messy.
The setting is the home of Fiona and George, underplayed by
the brilliant Brian F. O'Byrne, who gave an unforgettable performance as the
priest in “Doubt” and who has won every theater award in existence. George is
obsessed with writing a book about Global Warming, leaving his wife, Fiona, a
teacher, to deal with problems concerning their 15 year old daughter, Anna, who
has been suspended from school for fighting.
Michelle Gomez is sincere in the part of this beleaguered mother but did
not project enough to be able to hear her. Annie Funke, who is an alumna of the
School at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre and holds a BFA in Musical Theater from
University of Oklahoma, is convincing as this very heavy young woman locked in
her own world of suffering. It is understandable that Anna would develop a
crush on Terry, her rebellious uncle, a wanderer who listens to her when others
do not. Jake Gyllenhaal, the popular
movie star, creates a believable character as Terry, whose every other word is
Anna's foray into internet dating sends her to the bathtub
to do away with herself; as she is sinking into the water, the water spills
over, gathers momentum, and becomes a lake which covers the stage. From that
moment, the actors must wade ankle-deep, while completing the story. Anna
survives, and we are left wondering: Is this the polar ice-cap melting?
I noted strange similarities to other plays I have seen
recently: in” Russian Transport,” the daughter falls in love with her mother's
abusive brother; in “Dogfight,” pudgy Rose strips to her underwear like Annie;
in “Once,” the two protagonists walk up high on a wall very much like the one
here in “If There Is, I Have Not Found It Yet.”
As we exited the theater, there were hundreds of people
lined up in layers to see Jake Gyllenhaal.
I am sure they did not know or care about the other actors. Pity!!!