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Off Broadway


No Time For Comedy

Theatre Review by Matthew Murray

The issue at the center of No Time For Comedy is what is more important during rough times, the ability to laugh, or the ability to see the world clearly. Timely when the play was originally produced in 1939, the production at the Mint Theater that just opened seems equally timely today.

S. N. Behrman's script, though, is not content with providing light comedy or easy answers to the dilemmas presented by the play. The play is more an exploration of these ideas than a character study, but if the characters occasionally seem dry or overly talky, the ideas and the underlying story are sound, and always entertaining and provocative.

For a long time, though, the exact connection of the play's title to its subject matter is not clear. This is only revealed later in the play, after the story of playwright Gaylord Esterbrook (Simon Brooking) and his comic actress of a wife Linda (Leslie Denniston) is firmly established. Gaylord has written all of Linda's greatest successes, and his comedies made her a star. But now, going through a months-long dry spell, he has attracted the eye of another woman, Amanda Smith (Hope Chernov), who is inspiring him to the creation his wife is not, though the work is serious and tragic, unlike anything he's done before.

The play becomes, eventually, a battling of the Muses, fighting for control over Gaylord's creative soul. Amanda and Linda use radically different techniques to win his affections, and subscribe to utterly opposite philosophies of life. Through them, Behrman makes sure all points of view have their say; the characters, which also include Amanda's husband Philo (Ted Pejovich), the young society maven Pym (Shawn Sturnick), and the two servants attending on this madness, all have perspectives on the situation that are seamlessly woven throughout the fabric of No Time For Comedy.

Kent Paul has provided thoughtful direction to the piece, refereeing the push and pull between the characters with great care. As perspectives and partners are switched, time and time again throughout the evening, the play never loses its ground or stops being interesting. In fact, the production gets fuller and riper as it proceeds, making one wish the opening, establishing moments had the tension and energy of the play's final act.

It's there that the ensemble acting - strong, if perhaps a bit dry throughout - melds with the text and drives the play home. The final few minutes of the show, when our reality and the reality of the characters is merged, are striking and very entertaining. It's a great way to top off the already thought-provoking and enjoyable evening that is this production of No Time For Comedy.

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Mint Theater
No Time For Comedy
Through April 7
Mint Theater, 311 West 43rd Street, Fifth Floor
Schedule and Tickets: (212) 315-0231