NY1 Theater Review: "The Submission"
The off-Broadway theater company MCC kicked off their 2011-2012 season Tuesday night with the new play "The Submission." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
"The Submission" by Jeff Talbott is a most engaging play, which is not quite the same as a good one. The playwright is clearly talented and has a fine facility for crackling dialogue and raising hot-button issues, but I think he submitted this one too soon.
Jonathan Groff is Danny Larson, a struggling playwright who’s sick of rejection. He finally writes a winner but there’s a hitch. His drama is about a black family in the projects. And Dan, a gay white writer, believes his identity will prevent the work from getting serious attention.
So Dan comes up with a female pseudonym and submits the play to the prestigious Humana Festival. The play is selected and rather than reveal the truth, Dan decides to hire a black actress to pose as the playwright.
Dan’s partner Pete and his best friend Trevor caution against it but Dan is determined to see it through. Excellent set-up to this point and Talbott, a gifted wordsmith with a keen ear for hip talk, has us hooked.
But then the play takes a polemical turn and Talbott throws his characters into a running debate about black versus gay bigotry. Sounding more like mouthpieces for the author, they suddenly don’t ring all that true anymore.
On the plus side, Walter Bobbie’s production is first-rate. David Zinn’s inspired set design with its rotating backdrop allows for quick scene changes.
The cast is outstanding. Eddie Kaye Thomas as Pete and Will Rogers’ Trevor are both impressively understated. Groff and Rutina Wesley as Emilie deliver powerhouse performances.
But they are saddled with hurdles. Their inevitable showdown is an over-long diatribe and while Danny's play is sensitive and enlightening, he somehow emerges a racist.
Jeff Talbott, like his lead character, has all the playwriting tools. But unlike Danny, his breakthrough play and first produced is not quite ready for prime time.