THIS: a funny, touching—and uneasy—mix of comedy and drama

Jane (Loretta Walsh) seeks comfort from Alan (Benjamin Ratner) in THIS.

Actors Loretta Walsh and Benjamin Ratner negotiate tricky emotional and stylistic terrain in THIS. (Photo by Brandon Tang)

I laughed. I cried. I was confused.

In her 2009 script, This, playwright Melissa James Gibson introduces us to five witty New Yorkers—well, four New Yorkers and a Frenchman—who are desperately trying to negotiate the disappointments and responsibilities of early middle age. They’ve made it this far but nobody—except for the smug Frenchman—is pleased with the results.

Gibson employs some excellent conventions. In the opening scene, Tom and Marrell are throwing their first dinner party since the birth of their son. Tom suggests a game. Their friend, Jane will leave the room, the others will make up a story and, on her return, Jane will try to guess what the story is by asking yes or no questions. Except the rules aren’t what they seem to be and the game turns into a kind of Rorschach test: Jane unwittingly unearths a narrative about a widow who is involved in romantic triangle with a married couple. Jane was widowed a year earlier. Things get awkward. Jane leaves. [Read more…]