Review: LUNGS at Ensemble Theater

LUNGS, at Ensemble, is a thinking-persons play!

By: Sep. 12, 2023
Review: LUNGS at Ensemble Theater

As a counselor, I have often shared with clients the need to talk-out issues in their relationships.  It’s one of the central techniques of mental health practitions.

Duncan MacMillan, in his two-person play LUNGS, which is now in production at Ensemble Theater, illustrates this talking-out process. 

Unfortunately, in his oft-praised script, he seems to give us a model of when talking out becomes an issue, when people excessively talk and analyze their relationships.  In fact, he seems to illustrate how to talk a relationship to its death.

A review of LUNGS, which debuted in 2011 at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC, praised the play as "original and striking", but slighted the characters as "cliche".  Another review stated, "Duncan MacMillan's distinctive, off-kilter love story is brutally honest, funny, edgy and current. It gives voice to a generation for whom uncertainty is a way of life through two flawed, but deeply human, people who you don't always like but start to feel you might love. It's bravely written, startlingly structured.” 

The nameless characters, the script identifies them as M and W, find themselves examining the scope of their lives together, and the world around them, when they begin considering starting a family.

“In a time of global anxiety, terrorism, erratic weather and political unrest, a young couple want a child but are running out of time. If they over think it, they'll never do it. But if they rush, it could be a disaster.  They want to have a child for the right reasons. Except, what exactly are the right reasons? And what will be the first to destruct – the planet or the relationship?”

And so it goes, on and on, when every possible issue about the world, their lives, whether they are “good people,” are dissected, trisected, examined and reexamined again. 

After a while it seems like the duo needs to just shut up!  Finally, as can be expected, they do and go their separate ways, childless, until they accidentally run into each other. 

He is now engaged.   And, she has a secret that she carries into their conversation.  Where will this talkfest go next???

Ensemble’s production, under the focused direction of Becca Moseley, stars Katie Simón Atkinson and Robert Grant III. 

Stars is the perfect word to describe this excellent cast.  They are totally natural.  Being, not acting.  There is not a moment of pretense during the production. 

The production, with no intermission, even with all the talk, talk, talk, flows right along.

Capsule judgment:  The script, with its strong language and themes, is a thinking person’s play.  This is not a production for those who go to theatre to escape, to be “entertained.”  Many people will not “like” this play.  “To be liked” is not its purpose.  The author wants you to think about the role of communication in a relationship.  To think about the world in which we live.  To think about what “good” people are.  To think, about…maybe even overthink!  The production succeeds in developing the intent and purpose of the author!

LUNGS runs at Ensemble, which performs on the Notre Dame College campus on Green Road in South Euclid, from September 8 through the 24th.  For tickets call 216-321-2930 or go to


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From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in mo... (read more about this author)


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