Despite its title, Alexander Dinelaris’s new play, Still Life (from MCC at the Lorel), suffers from a peripatetic story structure that makes it hard to get into, and once into, hard to stay with.
It tells the story of photographer Carrie Ann (Sarah Paulson), who, in the aftermath of her father's death, falls in love with rock star ad man Jeffrey (Frederick Weller) only to find that he’s dying of the same cancer that took her father (Dominic Chianese, seen only once, in a brief flashback). For a few reasons, above and beyond the normal stress of grief (minor story revelations not to be spoiled here) this paralyzes her creative impulses and she does everything she can to avoid actively taking pictures, though she's not too proud to live the vicarious triumph of a student.
Because Carrie Ann is essentially reactive, the focal point of the play without being the driving force of the play, Still Life takes a very long time to arrive at its central themes, and thus a long time to take hold of your attention in any way that feels urgent or compelling. Under the competent but unremarkable direction of Will Frears, the performances (the ensemble also including Matthew Rauch, Bill Camp, Halley Feiffer, Ian Kahn, Adriene Lenox and Kelly McAndrew), are what I call New York Pro: the level of solid craft and artistry you'd expect and demand, yet nothing that rocks your world.
again, it's hard to find above average definition in a play not providing the
ammo for it in the text. Still Life, come to think of it, emerges as fodder for a fairly run-of-the-mill
TV chick flick. And now I can't stop thinking of it as Still Lifetime…
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