Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Man From Nebraska

Powerhouse Tracy Letts penned a killer show several years ago - August Osage County - family drama - intense - drug fueled.  Wowza.  His latest installment off-Broadway, Man From Nebraska, is far from that prior mark. Intentional, I'm pretty sure.  This show is brooding, show, vacuous, empty, hopeless, and depressing.  This is not all necessarily bad, it just leaves you quite a different taste in your mouth than the prior installment. Sometimes life throws you curve balls.  Some people swerve to avoid them, others get beamed directly in the head.  Such is life.

Probably the hardest working actor on and off Broadway, Reed Birney, (Ken) helms this production and is basically whom the entire show revolves around Ken and his mid-life religious crisis.  Kathleen Peirce (Cammie Carpenter) is his devoutly religious wife who is left to deal with the fallout.  It was not lost on me that Ken was from dead-center America where religion is much more central to the lives of people.  Ken meets Harry Brown , the brilliant Max Gordon Moore and Tamyra, the lovely Nana Mensah.  It also did not get lost on me that in his mid-life crisis he flew the coop to London - a city that could not be more different than Nebraska.  Mr. Letts seemed to be hinting at these disparities in quite a bit of the dialogue - (Ken: "I lost my faith", Tamyra: "They throw you Yanks out for that these days?").

Part blistering critique of religion and America, part human condition, Mr. Letts shows us what happens when man questions long held beliefs as provincial and narrow as they might seem.  He may or may not find something more satisfying out there.  He may come back. Or maybe he won't.  Despite the rather hum-drum and depressing Nebraska life that Ken leads, we do find that he is able to expand his horizons if even for a brief period.

Frankly Mr. Letts' play doesn't really answer the question it merely scratches the surface and explores the topic.  If you are looking for definitive answers you won't find them here.