One of the five main characters of A Night In (Or the Night My Wife Left) is a bong named “High.”
This fact stands out a great deal, for some reason. It’s not funny, though it supposed to be. It’s not clever, though I can’t imagine it’s supposed to be. The biggest thing that stands out about it is that it’s just obvious. It’s lazy. It’s a puppet wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses while Katie Brunberg, the actress holding and speaking for High, is wearing the same. But the whole thing, from Brunberg’s obvious “high dudette” to the name of the puppet, just feels like no one cares.
In fact, most of the play feels that way. It follows James Robertson as Manny, who returns home from a crappy day at the office to find his wife has left. Almost immediately, everyone starts calling him to say they saw the status change on Facebook. This is all done on a video screen while Manny acts on stage. He doesn’t watch the video, but timing is crucial here. It’s also often off.
Later, three puppets representing parts of his consciousness — Yesman (a yes man, get it?), High (a bong) and Lookatme (a pillow wearing goggles) — show up. Through this, Manny takes what is supposed to be an introspective dive into himself, learning a great deal along the way.
The biggest issue is that the audience never cares about Manny. And that’s because Manny never seems sad. He never seems particularly put off by the events of the day. In fact, he never seems much of anything. He yells, sure, but it seems like one hell of an effort to do so.
And that could be the point: he’s too sad to even function. If that’s the case, though, there are more interesting ways to display it.
Jackie Reed (Yesman) and Sarah Morrissey (Lookatme) both give good performances, Reed’s completely restrained (actually she’s almost best as the pizza girl who doesn’t have as nice an ass as Manny’s wife) but cutesy while agreeing with Manny’s every wish, while Morrissey manages to put some life into the play as the adorable, child-like (but high on ecstasy) Lookatme.
It’s clear the play is striving for something, but there’s too much going on for it to ever reach that something. Maybe spending less time on the various gimmicks — such as the puppets, the video synching with the acting, the iPhone calls, the fake Facebook profiles — would have allowed for more time on the writing and editing of the piece.
That’s where it misses. It all feels like a half-finished idea that no one necessarily wanted to finish. Instead, it was covered in a boatload of gimmicks to cover that fact up.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for compelling theatre.
A Night In (Or the Night My Wife Left) has 5 performances, ending July 28, 2012, at Goethe Institut, 812 7th St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets