David Hyde Pierce
December 24, 2011 by staff
David Hyde Pierce, “Close Up Space” is the story of an editor and, brother, this unamusing absurdist comedy could have used one. Maybe two. Not even the deep charms of David Hyde Pierce, who stars as a put-upon New York publishing pro, can make this Manhattan Theatre Club premiere anything but a trying 80 minutes.
The title of the play by Off-Broadway newbie Molly Smith Metzler refers to a proofreading mark indicating an extraneous gap between two words.
Paul is a whiz at closing up spaces on ma**scripts but can’t bridge the 3,000-mile divide between him and his teenaged daughter, Harper (Colby Minifie), who he has sent away to boarding school.
The problem? It’s tied to the sudden death of his mentally ill writer-wife. (Have you noticed that bipolar has become the new black on stage?)
In the one bright stroke by Metzler, Paul compares avoiding his daughter and keeping her at bay to an author using ellipses. That evasive strand of dot-dot-dot always leads to limbo.
It’s a neat metaphor. And there is grist for a story about relationships.
these characters and situations are wacky just for wackiness’ sake and get wearying.
That includes Steve (Michael Chernus), an assistant who covertly camps out in the office in his tent, and Vanessa Finn Adams (Rosie Perez), a hotshot writer who argues with Paul about serial commas and quotes Shakespeare when she’s not coming on to him.
When a raging Harper unexpectedly shows up at her dad’s brick-lined Flatiron office (nice work by Todd Rosenthal) speaking Russian and carrying a cooler filled with snow, you think things can’t get stranger but they do.
Cue the big scenic shift.
Director Leigh Silverman keeps the action flowing but can’t make all the quirks add up or gel. The play gets off to a shaky start as Paul, red marker in hand, schools mousey intern Bailey (Jessica DiGiovanni) in copy editing with a demonstration using an overhead projector. (Remember those gizmos?)
Presumably, it’s to suggest that Paul is an old-school guy, but it’s really just so we can read the writing on the wall.
The folks at MTC should have spent more time reading Metzler’s play. The company deserves credit for showcasing work by emerging dramatists, but it’s clear “Close Up Space” needed work.
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