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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Close Up Space

Molly Smith Metzler is an award winning playwright from Brooklyn and she's written a charmer that is now being presented at Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) on the small stage at NY City Center.

The play, Close Up Space, revolves around Paul (David Hyde Pierce), an intelligent literary editor and his estranged and odd daughter, Harper (Colby Minifie).  The title cleverly refers to an editing/proof-reading symbol - as in "shorten this up and remove some words (the verb to close, pronounced with a 'z').  You learn fairly early that something is amiss with his family and his daughter is quite upset with his actions.  Throw in a Saturday Night Live-like office manager, Steve (Michael Chernus), a well-published spit-fire (albeit mis-cast) author, Vanessa Finn Adams (Rosie Perez), and an innocent and smartly cast office intern, Bailey (Jessica DiGiovanni) and you have the makings of a sweet treat.

However in making that sweet treat, if you use the wrong ingredients or switch the salt for sugar you're in for a disaster.  Such is the case under the reign of Barry Grove at MTC.  Ms. Perez, while entertaining, is an over-used, mis-cast character actress in the role.  Mr. Chernus, while very funny and his character's arc cleverly designed, was overly so - to a point beyond satire to that of absurdity and farce.  Ms. Minifie's defects were perhaps one of the few that can be associated with the author  - taking the "I've been exiled to Siberia" analogy way too far.   David Hyde Pierce worked his magical reactions, facial expressions, and character acting the entire time and essentially rescued this one from falling into the abyss.

Mr. Grove - your audience is somewhere between 40 and death... much closer to the latter, i estimate (maybe because your subscriptions are relatively cheap) and your play selection, while admirable, just haven't seem to cut it in the past few cycles.  David Hyde Pierce may just have prevented this one from becoming the next one to fall off the cliff, but you've got to to a little better or once the purple haired audience ends up in those coffins, you're going to have a lot of empty seats in those wonderful theaters you manage.