NEW YORK—Playwright Jenny Schwartz is known for her versatile use of language, and in Somewhere Fun she uses language to tease, distract, and cajole. Much of the time the language hits aslant rather than straight on.
At the outset, real estate agent Rosemary (beautifully played by Kate Mulgrew) is on her way to lunch with friend Cecelia (Mary Shultz). But on the way, she almost literally bumps into an old school chum Evelyn (Kathleen Chalfant), who is in a wheelchair, accompanied by her aide Lolita (Maria Elena Ramirez). They promise to get together soon.
At lunch, Rosemary plays upmanship with Evelyn, who takes everything placidly. In fact, it turns out that Evelyn is the best adjusted of her set and will ultimately make better social progress than the others.
Rosemary, in spite of her pomposity, or maybe because of it, isn’t doing too well. Her husband has left her for a younger gal, and she’s on poor terms with her son, Benjamin (Greg Keller). Also, after umpteen years in the real estate business, things aren’t going so well.
She so works herself into an emotional lather that she actually has a meltdown. That’s right; she dissolves into a puddle on the ground. She is a goner.
When Benjamin comes to identify her body, he gets into a somewhat circular dialogue with the female officer who’s handling the case (played delightfully by Brooke Bloom).
Evelyn has finally landed in the hospital, where she is suffering from the throes of terminal cancer. But she remains optimistic and thoroughly in charge. Kathleen Chalfant has a field day with this role, displaying varying degrees of both stuffiness and sensitivity. Her aide Lolita is properly attentive.
Benjamin later comes to meet Beatrice (also played by Ms. Bloom), Evelyn’s daughter. Ben is very attracted to her, in spite of the fact that she doesn’t have a face—literally. It was completely bitten off by a pet dog, which was deaf. Perhaps the playwright means for Beatrice’s facelessness to have some pithy meaning; if so, I missed it.
But this play is not meant to be understood in realistic terms. It is abstract, deliberately filled with non sequiturs and clichés. And it is very funny at times.
Director Anne Kauffman has delved into every nook and cranny of meaning of the play, and her cast has responded with terrific performances by all, and special kudos to the aforementioned Ms. Chalfant and Ms. Mulgrew.
The supportive production team of set designer Marsha Ginsberg, costumer Jessica Pabst, lighting designer Japhy Weideman, and sound designer Daniel Kluger round out the play’s needs.
Vineyard Theatre, whose mission is to develop and produce bold new plays and musicals, has premiered many groundbreaking works, including Tony-award winning Avenue Q.
108 East 15th Street
Tickets: 212-353-0303 or visit www.vineyardtheatre.org
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Closes: June 23
Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information: firstname.lastname@example.org.