Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Barrington Stage Company

Also see Fred's review of The Tempest

Ryan King and Brooke Bloom
Lungs, a New England premiere at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, through June 10th, is a contemporary and eclectic two person comic drama which has staying and sticking power. The new play, by British writer Duncan Macmillan, opened at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. last September. Director Aaron Posner, lead actors Brooke Bloom as W and Ryan King as M, and set designer Luciana Stecconi revisit the territory at BSC.

The company's St. Germain Stage (the theater's newly renamed second space) is appropriately set upon an area devoid of scenery. Mostly silver-hued boards comprise both the stage and a backdrop. It is bare, bright (lighting by Zach Blane) and totally and appropriately immediate.

Two young actors appear and the man (M) has evidently asked his girlfriend (W) whether she would consider having a child. The initial dialogue, well, let's call it clipped:

W: A baby?
M: Breathe.
W: A baby?
M: I was just thinking.
W: About the future.
M: We'd have to change how we live.
W: The planet, use less
M: no, that's, well yes but that's not
W: okay.
M: I'm freaking you out.

As it transpires, W, a Ph.D candidate, rambles, philosophizes, pontificates all in hip, animated, appealing-while-irritating, fashion—as she ruminates, considers the prospect of hers and others lives. That is not all: both characters wonder about surviving the twenty-first century. M, for the beginning portion of the 90-minute attention-getter, parries and counters with what might be termed perspective. These are effectively positioned blips precisely formulated by Macmillan, an excellent playwright.

W evidently smokes many cigarettes (not on stage) and he is an aspiring songwriter. She has one non sequitur after another. At one point, she considers her hormones ...

M is the occasional interjector. Just a bit into it, he says, "The world is going to need good people in it. With everything that's happening. We can't just leave it to the people who don't think, the people who just have their child without ever properly examining their their their their capacity for love. I mean, that's what's wrong with everything isn't it?"

Most of the time, however, W, with her mood swings, tirades, free usage of profanity, heightened anxiety, and visceral responses, presses the play forward. Until it all changes, and that turning point and developing theme, alas, is yours to discover.

Maybe you are not in your thirties as are M and W. You either once were or, on the other hand, will be. Macmillan's dialogue is smart, edgy, and he places authentic words and phrases in the mouths of his characters throughout. W's impulses, thoughts, reactions, and resultant mini-monologues must fit; they do. Even if she is a hyper ever-emotive pain, she has an enticing and lovable side. King, steady and caring for a long while, evolves. As a couple, these two are fully believable.

The actors perfectly capture the script's reality. Having originated these roles nine months ago in D.C., they remain vigorous and crisp and actually appear to be experiencing what they say.

Macmillan has written some sharp laugh-out-loud lines, yes. His direct aim, though, is to get the characters entangled through personal tensions, address their dilemmas, spice it all with questions pertaining to the planet, and move the many clipped moments. Posner's direction is key: he helps inspire these expressive, winning performances.

Lungs continues at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts through June 10th. For tickets, call (413) 236-8888 or visit

Photo: Kevin Sprague

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol

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