BWW Review: TURNING OFF THE MORNING NEWS at McCarter Theatre Center is On
TURNING OFF THE MORNING NEWS opened at McCarter Theatre Center Saturday night to a raucous audience, thrilled to be the first to see Christopher Durang's new play directed by resident artistic director Emily Mann. Considering Durang's previous world premiere at McCarter, VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, headed to Broadway and won a 2013 Tony Award for Best Play, it is no stretch to say there was a feeling of witnessing the launch of a hit.
It is easy to empathize with Clifford, played with great affability by Robert Sella, as he contemplates the unpredictable nature of life exemplified in the morning news. As he navigates his own suburban block, meeting neighbors with their own microcosms of fear and coping, the news of the world seems far more immediate.
Director Emily Mann said, "At its heart, TURNING OFF THE MORNING NEWS explores the absurdity of our modern world. A fierce exposure of the ways that personal and societal anxieties can bring out the worst in us, it also gently reveals the antidote-reaching out beyond ourselves to find connection with others."
The delight of this dark comedy is most fervent with Kristine Nielsen in the role of Polly, a tour de force for a verbally gifted and emotionally fraught character caught in Durang's unique world. Jenn Harris (Rosalind) is likewise magic, capturing with utter sincerity the palpable fierceness and absurdity of persevering through life's assaults.
The 90-minute play moves quickly, helped by the efficient novelty of the set by Beowulf Boritt. While the audience may find much to laugh at, enjoying the cathartic release that comes from witnessing characters just one inch removed from our own subconscious, the experience is not all fun and games. The morning news, in fact, is not so easily turned off.
The joke, it feels, is on us.
TURNING OFF THE MORNING NEWS runs May 4-June 3 in the Berlind Theatre. Single tickets range from $25-$97.50 and are on sale now online at mccarter.org, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Center Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton.
Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson