Saturday, January 3, 2015

Oh, Babies: LUNGS at the Tarragon Theatre

I missed LUNGS, the critical hit, when it was staged last spring at the Tarragon. It's currently being revived at the Tarragon.

Everyone I spoke to raved about it:  the writing, the acting, the subject matter, the direction.  Today, I went with a regular theatre-going friend of mine, to see what the fuss was about.

LUNGS is a two-hander that takes place in 70 minutes, on a minimal set:  a bare room with nice, wood paneled walls, and floor, designed by Ken MacKenzie.  British playwright, Duncan MacMillan apparently insists on this bare room stricture, along with "no mime, no props, no lighting changes."  Kimberly Purtell lights it like a Fringe show, with subtle tonal shifts, but no specials.

This leaves the director, Weyni Mengesha and the actors, to bring the dense text to life, and they do so adeptly.

A 30-something straight couple: the gratingly loquacious and neurotic W, (Lesley Faulkner) and her long-suffering mister, M (Brendan Gall)  are trying to decide whether or not to procreate.  They are good people, they tell us.  They are educated.  They recycle.

What about the carbon foot-print?  What about money? What about the over-populated planet?

After a lot of agonizing, they decide to go ahead and get pregnant.  Complications ensue.

LUNGS is well-acted, with solid physical and vocal work from both actors. It is well written, if kind of pretentious, and overly talky. It's well-directed, within the constraints imposed on the director by the playwright.

I just didn't like it very much.

There's a lot of great dialogue, but when you really dislike one partner in a couple, it is hard to root for them as a pair, and hope they'll stay together.  I had moments when I felt compassion for both of them, but W was so annoying, I just couldn't believe M didn't run out of the room screaming early on in the courtship.  After a great, gut-wrenching plot twist late in the play, the feel-good ending felt like a tacked-on, pandering, rom-com style cop-out.

LUNGS is worth seeing for the performances, and some of the witty and thought-provoking dialogue.  It's a worthy effort,  just not great.

LUNGS continues at the TARRAGON EXTRA SPACE until January 25, 2015.  for more information and tickets.

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