The plays of Richard Greenberg give good brain, and it’s a lively sort of intellectualism that is as accessibly entertaining as a really good issue of The New Yorker. Greenberg’s current offering, in a world premiere at the Steppenwolf, is none of these things. Smartly wrought, yes—worthy theater, no. Its two acts are divided into short plays that seem tangentially linked at best. Act One: A middle-aged couple (Tracy Letts and Amy Morton) engage in a passive aggressive repartee that becomes more patently hostile with every arch utterance. Or, put it another way, it plays like Greenberg trying his hand at Albee. Though a navel-gazing piece of work, it is swiftly executed (as directed by Terry Kinney) and it holds your attention. Act Two: A narrator (Josh Charles) tells of meeting his wife (Kate Arrington), and how their blissed-out existence ended when the events of 9/11 began to intrude on their collective subconscious. Early on, standing in the same sleek apartment as that of Act One, the narrator recounts a ridiculous, and self-referential, epilogue concerning the apartment’s previous tenant; it’s as if Greenberg is saying, “All that before—that was just nonsense; you really needn’t have taken it so seriously.” It’s a sucker’s game, though, because all that comes afterwards commands even less attention. Metaphor and metaphysics are jumbled into an uncomfortable, tedious whole. Even a title like “The Well-Appointed Room,” which firmly declares for a certain order of things, can’t mask the play’s thematic ADD, which endlessly circles around the aphorism that nothing means anything, and everything means nothing. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.