If men were angels, Ty Green probably wouldn’t have gotten three women pregnant in one week. But men aren’t angels, and I suppose even a desultory poetry professor can manage a wild few nights from time to time.Not only is Ty (Seth Coe) a far cry from angel, he doesn’t make much of a man either. Sure, he’s virile on a few counts — his neighbor Maureen (Amy Miharu Hard), ex-girlfriend Jen (Natalie Cutcher), and teenage student Becca (Emily Thompson) will gloomily attest to that. But as a mate he’s a zero, so shambling and incurious that one wonders how he even got out the front door this morning.
One could imagine All This Intimacy as a referendum on the dimensions and definitions of masculinity in modern relationships. Perhaps the chronic irresponsibility and puerile impulses (not to mention flawed birth control) that define our main character are meant to serve a larger message. If that’s the case, too bad — our grasp of Ty, and of the special people in his life, is still far from intimate by play’s end.
Rajiv Joseph’s play, written in 2006 before his better-known and better-received hits Gruesome Playground Injuries and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, is more meandering and less compelling than those plays. Ostensibly a comic drama, the fairly humdrum happenings here play like a series of sketches and bookmarks put down by Joseph in preparation for fleshing out a better play later on.
As it stands, All This Intimacy isn’t a good play about bad people — it’s a pretty blah play about blah people. And the straightforward production currently running at Montgomery College, produced by Arts Alive Theatre and directed with dutiful literalism by Perry T. Schwartz, further enervates any minor antic thrill that potentially lay between the lines.
We’ve covered the plot more than halfway already. Before Ty’s accidental seed-sowing he was just a thirty-something in New York, teaching a writing workshop at Columbia and hanging out during off-hours with his best friend Seth (Brandon Mitchell) and Seth’s fiancee Franny (Anna Jackson).
It takes us about five minutes to realize just how rudderless Ty’s life has become. The problem, through two long acts, is that no one ever drives the boat but Ty.
Finally, by act two, Ty has organized a dinner, and invites Maureen, Jen, and Becca into the same room in order to break some big news — each woman is about to discover the pregnancies of the other two. Judging by the previous scenes — plus an infrequent and unnecessary set of monologues Ty addresses directly to the audience — we know this dinner won’t go well. We turn out, with little fanfare, to be right.
Ty’s serial baby-making comes at a good time for no one, especially for himself. We get a few honest inklings — all too sporadic — of how the ladies feel about their fateful run-ins with Ty, and the three actresses Hard, Cutcher, and Thompson make a solid team as they push irritably back against their dingbat baby-daddy. Mitchell and Jackson, too, turn in thoughtful performances.
All This Intimacy
Arts Alive at Cultural Arts Center
7995 Georgia Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
2 hours with 1 intermission
Fridays thru Sundays
It’s in Ty that we await signs of life. It’s fine that the playwright has him moving at a turtlish pace through life, with a new book of poetry on the back burner and not much else to show for himself. Audiences can learn to love a protagonist who himself doesn’t love, and we’re trained to at least try to stick with the old dope as he reckons with his mistakes. We get tired of holding our breath, however, for a coming to terms in this case. Save a fleeting moment or two, Ty never lets us in on any his real fears, hopes, or crises. He’s a placid, textureless cad, bleached of neurosis, and we find him obtuse and exhausting. How on earth did this man bed three women in a week?
The solution to that riddle must lie beyond the mere words on the page. We conclude, fairly quickly, that some of Ty’s convictions are bluster — he’s an unreliable narrator, vulnerable to self-doubt. Yet Schwartz’s work with Coe on the character of Ty doesn’t yield complex character. Played without subtext, Ty’s flip manner is the behavior of a simpleton, rather than a man attuned to his misgivings and yet trained to swallow them. We expect that Joseph has written Ty as a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing. Here, he’s just played as a sheep.
With a little effort, though, you can still lift the wool from your eyes as you watch All This Intimacy unfold. The play does contain a few nice surprises, and Joseph strikes some resonant chords — mortality, aging, and sexual potency — that the team intermittently sleuths out and honors. More often, though, we’re left wishing for a more intimate glimpse.
All This Intimacy. Written by Rajiv Joseph. Directed by Perry T. Schwartz. Featuring Sean Coe, Natalie Briggs Cutcher, Amy Hard, Anna Jackson, Brandon Mitchell and Emily Thompson. Produced by Arts Alive Theatre. Reviewed by Hunter Styles