Saturday, January 30, 2010

You May Be Splendid Now

Photo/Aaron Epstein

Even if they've already grown up and left home, the question "It's 2:00 in the morning; do you know where your children are?" can leave some in a panic. Not so for the Carters: for the last six years, their twins, Lacy (Lauren Glover) and Skip (Nick Lehane), have been at Haverdale's public-access studio, taping a classy (read: undeniably cheesy) homage to Johnny Carson. But that's not the question playwright Dan Moyer's asking. Instead, recognizing that comfort can be crippling, You May Be Splendid Now begins at the end: the swan-song episode of "Up Late With Skip Carter."

It's a great premise, well-executed by director Will Brill and his chemically combustible cast, for it delivers all the unexpected surprises of a premiere as well as the high-rated drama of a finale, not to mention a wealth of rich "memories" to pull from. There's a sense of real history between the twins, and although Carl, their socially awkward sound guy, is very much on the outside of that duo, it's thrilling to watch him try to get more involved. (It's tempting to say that Gabriel Millman is criminally underused--except that he's always on stage, using his lizard-eyed expressions and silent stage presence to really add to the tension without stealing from it, the mark of an excellent actor.) The only stumbling point in the play is their guest, Branson Burger-James (Dan Wohl), who, despite being the saddest, least-frightening death-metal goth ever, adds nothing to the plot or themes of the play.

Fortunately, Moyer's concept more or less forces him to stay on topic, and the endearing goofiness of the banter between Lacy and Skip makes it easy to focus on their relationship. ("We wanted to hit the ground running," he says. "Ow," she replies, and then, as an intentionally overheard aside, "That was the ground.") And that's no surprise, given how complex these characters turn out to be: Lehane channels a mix between the daft innocence of Pee-Wee Herman and the bitter adulthood of David Letterman, while Glover starts out like a wide-eyed fan (ala Kristen Schaal on Flight of the Conchords) only to end up blossoming into a grownup with a wild streak (think Zooey Deschanal). Their strong connection and comic timing allows Brill to slowplay the crescendo in Moyer's script, which in turn makes all the action on stage feel more earned, and authentic.

Above all, You May Be Splendid Now allows that "you" to really be emphasized; it would take a hard-heart to look back on the bonds of family and friendship without our own empathy and regret.

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