Past Reviews

Off Broadway Reviews

The Slow Dance

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - March 14, 2024

Blair Baker, Peggy J. Scott, and Cary Donaldson
Photo by Richard Termine
Neurosis meets whimsey in Lisi DeHaas's The Slow Dance, from Apt. 10C Productions at 59E59 Theaters, a play about a whiny, immature, and insecure middle-aged man who, over the course of 75 minutes, will need the help of his mother, his fiancée, a professional organizer, a dance instructor, a therapist, and, oh, a bear (let's not forget the bear!) to get him back on his feet.

With so much to unpack, it's most appropriate that The Slow Dance, directed by Lily Kanter Riopelle like an off-balance teeter-totter, opens on a scene filled with packing boxes. It is the home of the man's mother, named Mother (Peggy J. Scott), who is preparing to move from the family home. The man is her only child, named Son (Cary Donaldson). He is ostensibly there to assist, but it quickly becomes clear they have had a long history of butting heads that is not conducive to completing the task at hand. Hard to say who is at fault, but Son's current moodiness would seem to relate to the recent death of his long-absent father from whom Mother was divorced many years previously.

As if their unresolved issues weren't enough, we then check in on the relationship between Son and his fiancée, unsurprisingly named Fiancée (Jasminn Johnson). She and Son are polar opposites in personality, her active aggressive disposition in sharp contrast to his passive aggressive one. The particularities of their current conflict stem from the process of planning for their upcoming wedding. And the more we watch the two of them together, the less of a future we can envision for them.

As we watch these interactions, we can't help feeling we have walked in on some psychologically messed-up situation, maybe some grown-up version of a children's story that is significant to the play, Robert McCloskey's classic 1948 picture book "Blueberries for Sal," about a human child and a bear cub, both of whom get temporarily lost in the woods while hunting for blueberries with their respective mothers. Hence the bear (Lucy York), whom only Son and we can see.

Ok, then. If Son is a version of Sal, then who is the character whose name actually is Sal (Blair Baker, who also plays a therapist and a dance instructor)? Sal is the very helpful organizer from a company called Spark Joy (cue the symbolism!) who is here to help Mother pack for her move and to offer up pithy advice like "something doesn't have to be broken for you to let it go."

Freud (or perhaps Bruno Bettelheim) might have a field day with interpreting The Slow Dance, but sorting through it all is like putting together a picture puzzle with a lot of missing pieces, even if somehow, by the end, all is miraculously resolved. New friends are made. Son is relatively straightened out. And the bear and we get to go home, happy that everyone else is happy but perplexed as to how it all came about.

The Slow Dance
Through March 23, 2024
Apt. 10C Productions
59E59 Theatres, Theater C, 59 E. 59th St., New York NU
Tickets online and current performance schedule: