Film star Jake Gyllenhaal is making his American stage debut off-Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of a play called "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet". NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
For all its many virtues, there's one thing I really don't like about the British import at the Laura Pels Theatre. The title: "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" is as forgettable as the performances in this engaging new play are memorable.
Playwright Nick Payne has crafted an intensely nuanced family portrait that reeks of emotional truth. Families can be very messy and Payne captures one family in all its painful and occasionally comic glory. The father George is a scientist preoccupied with global warming. The mom Fiona has her hands full as a teacher with a work-obsessed husband. Fifteen-year-old daughter Anna is overweight and bullied. And George's younger brother Terry is a good-hearted slacker.
There are no villains here. Not much of a plot either. But what keeps the story going are vivid characterizations that come alive in the hands of four outstanding actors.
The production, directed by Michael Longhurst, seems to rival the family dynamics in messiness. There's a pile of furniture upended in the middle of the stage rimmed by a trough of water. Eventually, the entire set is flooded. It's apparently a directorial choice and while it's an obvious symbolic reference connecting global warming to a family that's metaphorically drowning, it's ultimately distracting.
The drama is compelling enough particularly with this cast. Brian F. O'Byrne and Michelle Gomez as loving but flawed parents are sublime. Annie Funke handles teen angst with shattering honesty and Jake Gyllenhaal in only his second stage appearance is extraodinary. Moment to moment this movie star's performance rivals the most seasoned Broadway professionals.
The title is apparently a response to the play's thematic question: Is our way of life worth preserving if we're not prepared to change? I can't answer that but I can say this compassionate and insightful drama, even with some missteps, is a keeper.