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Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Michael Brusasco and Margot White.
Photo by Jon Leong.
"Write what you know" is an axiom that is hammered into every writer's head. But even the most autobiographical of works is shaped by selective interpretation and wishful thinking. This particular truth triggers a landmine that sends the shrapnel flying in Daniel Libman's funny/serious new play Intermission, on view at the Clurman Theatre.

Intermission, which contrary to its title has no intermission (running time, 90 minutes), is divided into scenes that take place in a theater lobby before the start of a play, during its intermission, and afterwards. In the opening scene, we meet two theatergoers—a married couple named Blake (Michael Brusasco) and Lori (Margot White)—who are awaiting the arrival of Lori's law firm colleague Gabe (Carol Todd). They are there to see a new play by an anonymous playwright, about whom there has been much speculative buzz. Lori is on the board of the theater company that is producing the play, and she is adamant that Blake, who tends to fall asleep at the shows she drags him to, be on his best behavior.

In what would seem to be a setup for a domestic dramedy (comic bickering with dramatic undertones), Blake shows himself to be clueless and blasé about pretty much everything, while Lori is a no-nonsense type, fussing at her husband and anxiously checking the time every ten seconds and wondering aloud where Gabe is.

Gabe is coming with someone named Tina (Jessica Griffin), whom they don't know. Blake, an adolescent in an adult body, is very interested in finding out whether Gabe might be a lesbian. You can imagine the eye rolls this line of talk engenders in Lori, but when Gabe and Tina arrive, everyone gets along reasonably well and the foursome go into the play.

During the play's intermission, Gabe and Lori go outside for a cigarette, while Tina and Blake grab a drink at the bar and have a conversation that is ostensibly about the squash club that Tina belongs to, though Blake manages to find a sexual interpretation for everything she says, and it appears that sparks are beginning to fly.

Throughout this middle section, Mr. Libman leads us into making assumptions about all four characters. But by the final scene, when the conversation turns to the play they all just sat through, many of those assumptions are turned on their heads. The mood turns sober, and all four characters are left to deal with some unexpected emotional turmoil.

The actors, under the direction of Wayne Maugans, do a good job of evolving into more multi-dimensional characters as the play progresses, with Ms. White leading the pack as the deeply conflicted Lori whose faith in clean breaks and logical solutions to all of life's problems is sorely tested.

With this play, Mr. Libman has set out to explore some significant ideas about relationships, attitudes, and identity, and he does so by creating a shift in tone from sitcom humor to a serious consideration of responsibility and difficult decisions that impact not only ourselves but everyone else in our lives, even those we brush off as unimportant casual acquaintances. I do think there is bit too much silliness in the first half, particularly with its portrayal of Blake as someone with his foot permanently in his mouth, but the play does get stronger as it enters into more emotionally complex territory. A little tightening and less dependence on misleading characterizations in the beginning might lend more credence to the denouement.

Through May 24
Clurman Theater, 410 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge

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