While we were in New York City this week, PJ and I saw four plays: Mouth to Mouth, off-Broadway, and three Broadway shows, In the Heights, The Seagull, and Gypsy. These four plays were all at least as good as the plays we saw last year, which was a little surprising since we hadn’t really planned on seeing two of them.
We arrived in NYC a couple of hours later than we had planned — airport delays — on Monday. So, we rushed to check in and then walked over to the TKTS booth to see what we could find to see. Unlike past years, we decided this time to only buy tickets at the discount booth, which obviously meant that we didn’t necessarily have control over what we saw. Furthermore, Mondays are mostly dark, which means that few shows are actually playing.
We had looked on the Internet before arriving in NYC to see what was playing on Monday. One of the shows we thought might be interesting was Kevin Elyot’s Mouth to Mouth. We also liked that this play was being performed at the Acorn Theater. Last year we saw Things We Want at the Acorn, and the year before that we saw The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie there. So, it’s now a bit of a tradition for us to see a play at the Acorn each time we’re in New York.
Mouth to Mouth is about a man who’s HIV positive, Frank, played by David Cale, who is racked with guilt over a secret he’s keeping from his best friend, Laura, played by Lisa Emery. Over the course of the play we go back and forth between the present and the previous year as we learn what Frank’s secret is and how it affects him and the people around him.
One of these people is Laura’s son, Philip, played by Christopher Abbott. Philip makes quite an entrance: he arrives onstage wearing only jeans. While the part calls for Abbott to be sexy and alluring, he manages to bring more than just a great body to the role. Philip is a complicated character, one that remains elusive since the play is more or less told from Frank’s point of view.
This elusive quality is one of the complaints I have about the play. I think it would work better and be far more engaging if we knew more about Philips’ motivations, behaviors, and point of view. Elyot is trying to explore very complicated ground in this work — I don’t want to summarize it too fully since that would lessen the play’s impact for anyone who might see it — but this ground could be even more complex and interesting.
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