Divorce New York
“Requiem for a Marriage” by J.B. Edwards. Directed by Linda Selman.
Midtown International Theatre Festival at
Workshop Theatre Main Stage, 312 W. 36 St., NYC.
July 16- Aug. 8, 2009. 6 Performances. Schedule varies.
Tickets and information: 866-811-4111 or www.midtownfestival.org.
by Glenda Frank
They can’t be in the same room for more than a minute without clawing into each other. The wife (Memory Contento) is an attractive sixty-something therapist, a trust-fund baby who probably helped him launch his career. The husband (George Tynan Crowley) is an aging literary lion who has hit a long dry spell and is amusing himself by mentoring (and bedding) a sexy first novelist (Julia Motyka). She is the latest in a long string of affairs.
This is a familiar but promising landscape – an opportunity to explore male and female perspectives on aging, marriage, career, even friendship and sexual dysfunction, but author J. B. Edwards looks only outside his characters to tell their story. The play seemed unduly inspired by Edward Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” complete with a fantasy child (Jodie Bentley), who unfortunately engages in dialogue with each parent and delivers several pedestrian monologues.
The most interesting moment in the two acts is the argument between the literary lion and the fledgling novelist as she is about to leave for a party. To her dismay he has left his wife, Park Ave. penthouse and servants to share her small flat, where he is drinking himself into a stupor and leaving his belongings wherever they fall. And he has not talked to his publisher about her. His continued inability to write and her independence madden him. He becomes physically violent. She defends herself with courage and some honest observations about both of them. Julia Motyka’s performance too is admirable.
In the end, nothing is resolved, but the feminist twist is pleasant although unexpected. The young novelist sends the older packing. The clingy wife faces her fear of being alone and discovers that she likes owning her own space. We learn her ruthless tactics in snaring the young writer into marriage and we observe how coolly she dismisses her fantasy daughter as an appendage of the failed marriage. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to despise her – or at least disapprove of her – but America is the land of second acts and new beginnings. Somewhere in “Requiem for a Marriage” may be the germ of a better play.