BWW Review: Theresa Rebeck's LOOSE KNIT Is a Winner at Group Rep
Loose Knit/by Theresa Rebeck/directed by L Flint Esquerra/Group Rep, NoHo/through September 8
Will the play be like Steel Magnolias? I queried. But...there are two male actors onboard. Well, as it turns out Loose Knit provides far more entertainment than I expected and presents a myriad of thought provoking ideas, not only about dating, but about the politics of America and how it works or does not. Currently onstage at Group Rep, Loose Knit should be a great big winner, because of the astute writing, the dynamite seven member ensemble and superior direction from L Flint Esquerra.
Five women meet regularly in their various apartments to knit...actually, some to knit, some to talk. Gina (Lisa McGee Mann) is a lawyer and professes to want to knit only, but is keeping a secret deep down that is about to rattle her nerves. Two sisters Lily (Stephanie Colet) and Liz (Marie Broderick) have a love/hate relationship. Lily is supposedly happily married to Bob (Doug Haverty), but Liz is having an affair with him behind Lily's back, or is Lily truly in the dark? Liz is a journalist who writes about celebrities, hates her job and spends much of the group time ... complaining. Then there's Margie (Julie Davis) who has joined a dating service to find a man, but is utterly put off. Paula (Cathy Diane Tomlin) completes the circle. She's a therapist and black whose assimilation into the world of white women is about to be tested.
Who will test her? A corporate asshole named Miles (Todd Andrew Ball), who is very rich and powerful. If he's in love with anyone, it's himself. Lily has mysteriously arranged dates for Margie, Paula and Liz with Miles. Miles is Lily's friend, and she is experiencing an identity crisis - with her husband away, cheating on her...yes, she knows it - she hopes her friends will fail with Miles, validating her relationship with him as number one.
Theresa Rebeck is a glorious playwright. She writes about a circle of friends who challenge each other but not in expected ways. She contrives a whole batch of encounters with surprise elements. Out of these seemingly serious encounters come blasts of diabolical humor, making the play more comedic than dramatic. Did you ever see a nervous breakdown and laugh uproariously at the victim? You will in this play.
The entire cast under Esquerra's well paced and fluidly staged direction are terrific to watch. Every one has his or her moment in the spotlight. Colet and Broderick carry the sister feud to high levels of intensity. Davis is very funny as the innocent Margie. One unforgettable comment from her about not being able to get a date, "Every single man on this planet is gay; that's what the problem is." Mann's tirade is over the top brilliant. Tomlin, in a quieter way, is equally fascinating. Haverty, as 'nice' Bob, is wonderfully smooth as a novice lecher and deliciously fun in a brazen drunken confrontation with Miles. Ball makes the wealthy Miles cold, callous and despicable at every turn.
Chris Winfield's set design of the living room serving various apartments and a popular Sushi restaurant frequented by Miles and his dates is top notch. Elevating the restaurant may bear some social significance of Miles looking down on the others beneath him.
Go see Loose Knit through September 8 at Group Rep! There's memorable writing and direction and...the cast will knock your socks off.
(photo credit: Doug Engalla)