Written by Lizzie Vieh
Directed by Maria Dizzia
The course of true love never did run smooth. In fact, for the denizens of Lizzie Vieh’s confounding universe, even arranging a casual kinky encounter can be fraught with hazards.
John (Maurice Jones) Wendy (Leigh Williams) have reached an impasse in their marriage. The initial passion that drew them together has cooled, and because a bout with testicular cancer has rendered John infertile, they haven’t been able to start a family. Desperate to liven up their intimacy, the couple decide to experiment with threesomes. The way some couples decide what to see on movie night, they take turns choosing third partners. Wendy’s picks eccentric (possibly mildly autistic) coworker Kevin (Justin Yorio), whose social awkwardness makes John uncomfortable. As it turns out, Kevin is up for the ménage a trois, but for the wrong reasons. He’s deeply in love with Wendy, and will do anything to be close to her. This wasn’t in the plan, but Wendy likes being desired and begins seeing Kevin on the sly. Further complications arise when it’s John’s turn to choose. Free-spirited Arianne (Cassandra Paras), is game for some polyamory, but Wendy begins to lose her nerve. What she really wants, it seems, is out of the marriage. But when John’s illness returns and Kevin’s dark side emerges, she is forced to search her soul for the right answer.
Intriguingly, the male characters are more emotionally available than the women in the play. John, especially, careens to extremes of feeling as both his marriage and his health become increasingly unstable. Under Maria Dizzia’s bold direction, Jones throws himself into the role with powerful rawness and vulnerability. In less mercurial but equally challenging roles, Williams, Yorio and Paras maintain the honesty and spontaneity the material demands. Vieh’s script is tender and insightful, and the issues it probes are timely. But there’s potential here for further exploration of the characters’ drives and desires. It never becomes clear what Wendy’s looking for as she channel surfs through different life choices. And Arianne is likable, but, outside of a brief sermon on the virtues of eco-friendly dry cleaning, exhibits almost zero passion. As it is, THE LONELIEST NUMBER is a moving evening of theater. A more fully-rendered cast of characters would raise it to a higher level.
THE LONELIEST NUMBER continues through March 10, 2018, at The Flamboyán Theater at the Clemente Soto Vélez Center, 107 Suffolk Street, in Manhattan. For tickets, call 646-299-2140 or visit http://www.amios.nyc.