MILES FOR MARY
February 22, 2018
Seated around a table, the well-modulated voice from the speaker phone (Stephanie Wright Thompson) calls the meeting to order. The high school teachers and coaches calmly discuss the non-profit scholarship organization’s goals for the year. A new member, Julie (Stacey Yen), quietly pushes for clarity.
Always looking for the “yes sure” in new suggestions, the members mouth interest and insist on putting all ideas on the table. Suggestions circulate about themes, targeted fundraising goals, and responsibilities. The usual meeting blather.
But subtle shifts in group dynamics soon begin to rumble on an underground track that finally erupt in some truly funny scenes.
The well-meaning group includes Brenda (Amy Staats) the helpful female coach and the temperamental, entitled male coach Ken (Joe Curnutte) whose animated facial expressions crack-up the audience as do his rather lame attempts to sink a basketball in a doorknob-high net. (Although she doesn’t interfere, Brenda could decidedly out-play Ken.)
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, there’s little physical action but tons of emotional activity. Scenes revolve around the table in the Phys Ed teacher’s lounge (designed by Amy Rubin), with people always seated in “their” chair and speaking in a tightly controlled, calm voice. But when the “Miles For Mary” local telethon nears, space breaks apart and nerves begin to fray.
Soon verbally supportive pronouncements are passively questioned ripping open pent-up frustrations. To start, the married couple, Ken (Marc Bovino) and Julie (Stacey Yen), squeeze around ways to criticize one another’s ideas without being outright critical. This balancing act invariably takes a tumble when Ken attempts to unemotionally teach the skeptical group how to use a multi-channel telephone system. This devolves into a boisterous exchange challenging the necessity of mastering this donated equipment.
Created by The Mad Ones (the entire cast), whether dissecting the meaning of “condescending language” or questioning amorous affections “Miles for Mary” at Playwrights Horizons delivers astute commentary on “politically correctish” group interactions.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis