Review Roundup: MCC Theater's THE VILLAGE BIKE
MCC Theater presents Greta Gerwig, with Max Baker, Jason Butler Harner, Lucy Owen, Cara Seymour, and Scott Shepherd, in the American premiere of Penelope Skinner's celebrated play The Village Bike, the final production of MCC's 2013-14 Main Stage season.
The Village Bike is directed by Sam Gold, who recently directed the much-raved new musical Fun Home and this season's The Realistic Jones on Broadway. The Village Bike is currently in previews at The Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC), with an official opening tonight, June 10, 2014.
In Penelope Skinner's The Village Bike, Becky is pregnant -- and friskier than ever. But she can't seem to get the attention of her husband, who is preoccupied with preparing for the baby's months-away arrival. So Becky takes matters into her own hands and sets out on an adventure that starts with the purchase of a used bike from a man in town and takes her further than she ever expected she'd go.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: In this erotic tale of one really hot summer in provincial England, Ms. Gerwig uses the off-balance, open-faced presence she brought to films like "Frances Ha" and "Greenberg" to hook us from the moment we set eyes on her...Our willingness to trust Ms. Gerwig is crucial to the success of "The Village Bike," an MCC production that has been handled with exquisite care by the director, Sam Gold..."The Village Bike" takes its own route, both wayward and straightforward, in pursuing the idea of sex as a raw biological urge that's been given new outlets in the age of Internet pornography. That it's a woman's urge that's being explored, in unsentimental and noncelebratory terms, makes "The Village Bike" an uncommon and revitalizing entry in mainstream theater.
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Greta Gerwig, indie pinup girl for "Frances Ha," proves stageworthy playing a sexually needy woman in "The Village Bike." In this dark domestic dramedy, which preemed at the Royal Court in 2011, Brit scribe Penelope Skinner tackles some hot topics, from the addictive nature of pornography to female rape fantasies. But there's no consistency to the scribe's dramatic voice, which veers from the realistic to the ridiculous in the mouths of characters who don't talk the same language -- and don't even seem to inhabit the same play.
Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Sam Gold's assured direction in this MCC Theater production can't smooth out the lumps and bumps. But the ensemble he's included is so good they offer compensation. Gerwig, an indie-film darling known for "Frances Ha," proves a natural in her stage debut. She's funny, affecting and natural. The play has flaws, but Gerwig gets you teasingly close to satisfaction.
Jesse Green, Vulture: Admirably, Skinner is addressing a difficult theme head on, often with wit and verbal authenticity. What options, after all, does society give a pregnant woman -- a woman who's also, to up the ante, a schoolteacher -- when her sexual needs are not being met? But in order to externalize the drama, Skinner resorts to the kind of marionette-string plotting that makes no character sense...Not every story has to be real, of course, and the director Sam Gold is usually adept at taking audiences along for the ride in plays that lack the usual handrails. Too bad his methods are not working here; the play is too wild even for the heightened naturalism he starts us with as a gateway drug. This makes the performances, which are all quite good line-by-line, mostly unworkable over the course of the two hour-long acts. Gerwig, onstage almost the whole time, barely dressed, exemplifies both extremes. She's surprisingly natural in her first major theater outing and unsurprisingly funny; she has the character down. That, alas, is the problem.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: In fact, the excitement lies not in the avidity with which Becky (the Gerwig character) pursues satisfaction, but in the skill with which Skinner handles a broader theme: the desire, lurking not only in women, for sexual release as well as relationship stability...The Village Bike relies heavily on the quality of its Becky, as she appears in virtually the entire play. Gerwig has displayed her expertise in film after film...She has developed an uncanny ability to express mild despair -- heartache blended with offbeat humour. In The Village Bike, directed by Sam Gold, she utilises that acumen in Becky's wordless moments. Gerwig proves that, emotionally, she isn't just a spectacular subject for the camera, but can also scale up for a live audience.
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Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy