- Associated Press - Friday, August 8, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Should you happen to bring your mother along to see “Phoenix,” Scott Organ’s one-act dark comedy at the Cherry Lane Theatre, beware: She might stare you down and say, “I told you so.”

Because “Phoenix,” despite its partly comic tone, is surely a reminder that our modern iteration of the dating ritual - we speak of the hookup - is rife with danger. Maybe Mom is right. Hooking up sure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, this play seems to be saying. Or does that interpretation totally depend on how old you are, what gender, and lots of other things?

On the plus side, “Phoenix” stars Julia Stiles, always a thoughtful and intelligent stage presence, along with James Wirt. The two play Sue and Bruce, who had a one-night stand. Or, rather, hooked up. The play begins a month later, with their second meeting.

At least, Bruce calls it a month.

Sue: “Four weeks.”

Bruce: “A month, right?”

Sue: “No, four weeks isn’t really…”

Sigh. That’s an ominous sign of how things will proceed in the relationship. If such Mars-Venus sparring frustrates you, be forewarned.

The minus side is that the play, although it touches upon important issues like commitment and independence and people’s need to attach themselves to something in the world, often feels like a trifle. Just when an interesting issue seems to be percolating to the surface, some inconsequential or awkward dialogue seems to bat it back down.

But back to that second meeting. Sue says she has three things to say. First, she had a great time with him that night. (Bruce is happy). Second, she can’t ever see him again. (Bruce is not so happy.) And third, um, she is pregnant.

Oops. This is when your mother might stare.

Sue says she’ll take care of it - but not until she gets to Phoenix, where her new job is. Bruce, shocked, says he’ll come for the abortion. She says no. He comes anyway. He’s annoying - and charming, too.

Of course, you want to know whether Sue goes through with it. This, we will not tell you. For one thing, it would blunt the impact of the best scene in the play - the scene at the clinic.

The actors, especially Stiles, are particularly effective in this scene. Elsewhere, though, there are some odd choices by director Jennifer DeLia that serve to distract from the dialogue at times. Just one example: Occasionally, Sue will suddenly do a cartwheel (something that doesn’t seem to fit with her personality), or, a yoga handstand. It’s not clear why, and distracts for just a moment, but enough to be disconcerting.

Soon enough, though, we arrive back at the essential question for these two: Was it right that we hooked up in the first place?

And, whatever the answer, you’ll know that at least one person in this play was right. That’s the theater announcer, who, asking patrons to turn off their phones at the beginning, adds: “And always use protection.”


Online: https://www.cherrylanetheatre.org

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