Theater Review: Lungs Is a Rewarding Drama for a Theatrically Underserved Millennial Generation | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Theater Review: Lungs Is a Rewarding Drama for a Theatrically Underserved Millennial Generation

Posted by on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 4:10 PM

click to enlarge Jonathan King and Michelle Murray Wells in Lungs - PHOTO COURTESY OF DARYL RAY CARLILES PHOTOGRAPHY
  • photo courtesy of Daryl Ray Carliles Photography
  • Jonathan King and Michelle Murray Wells in Lungs
Lungs
★★★★ 1/2
Through Sept. 25
Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh


You scarcely need a critic to note the conspicuous strengths of Sonorous Road Theatre’s rewarding production of Lungs. Two eyes, two ears, and a waking mind should do the trick. Artistic director Michelle Murray Wells and a previously underutilized Jonathan King are clearly among the strongest members of an emerging generation of young regional actors. Under Tony Lea’s discerning direction, in a stripped-down show with little in the way of technical filigree, both expertly pursue the comedy and pathos in the hairpin curves of Duncan Macmillan’s script.

It’s obvious why Wells pushed hard to secure this regional premiere for Sonorous Road’s second season. The rising British playwright’s 2013 text clearly expresses two voices—and a series of concerns—from the millennial generation, which remains criminally underrepresented onstage. Last Friday, I watched the twenty- and early-thirty-somethings in the house lean in as the unnamed couple onstage awkwardly negotiated a significant moment of change in their long-term relationship.

Protip: Such moments should not be attempted while standing in a checkout line at Ikea. Absurdly, the man believes it’s somehow progressive for him to say he thinks they should have a baby before his partner does. When he does, her ensuing meltdown shows how badly he’s miscalculated one of her life goals.

The moment also triggers the first in a series of telling verbal switchbacks as both characters talk their way through contradictory emotions. After her boyfriend blindsides her with the news above, the woman flatly states, “I’m not freaked out, I’m just surprised,” mere moments before comically admitting, “I’m completely freaked out.” By evening’s end, both will state politically correct positions on various social, ecological, and interpersonal issues and then immediately start walking them back as they express their deeper ambivalence.

We watch, breathlessly at times, as these complex characters emotionally bruise each other and themselves as they overthink almost everything about their relationship, including the creation of a new life. They try to reassure themselves that they’re good people and then cruelly debate how anyone can actually be good in such a dysfunctional culture on a suffering planet.

In this finely calibrated production, we see both the intimacy and the distance between two awkward people who love and care for each other. Millennials will hardly be the only ones to look on with fascination and occasional dread as the work fast-forwards through the life cycle of these characters and Macmillan asks what the future holds, for them and for us.

There is a nagging flaw, however: a gender-based emotional imbalance in Macmillan’s script. When the thoughts, feelings and struggles of the woman on stage are so thoroughly explored over a series of deep and vivid monologues, she can’t be placed among the legion of underwritten female characters. But why must she get stuck with all of the neuroses while the comparatively underwritten male character plays the stable, stoic half of their team?

Luckily, King’s performance and Lea’s direction compensate for this dynamic—the man onstage is fully dimensional, and he blossoms in moments when he discloses his love and his fears for the future. But is Macmillan making the point that sexism remains alive and well in the millennial generation, or has he simply fallen back on reductive gender stereotypes in an otherwise compelling work?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

When discussing this play, you need to be cautious not to imply that it's an accurate depiction of autism. Mark …

by Curio Onscreen on Theater Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Lights Up the Mathematics of the Mind (Arts)

First comment sounds like Crawford wrote it.

by Chris Kassel on Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son (Arts)

Best ending should have been:

Aurora got really hurt by projectile (in movie it hit her arm). It should …

by Sergej on Movie Review: Passengers Proves a Bad Ending Can Ruin an Otherwise Good Movie (Arts)

I'd keep an eye on the Facebook page and expect to see events there as they finish reshuffling, but if …

by Brian Howe, INDY managing editor for arts & culture on An Epilogue for Unexposed Microcinema's Bold, Meaningful Year of Holding Down a Stable Venue for Experimental Film (Arts)

sorry i missed these events. how do I find out about future ones? Web link is dead. FB/Twitter links appear …

by Geoff Dunkak on An Epilogue for Unexposed Microcinema's Bold, Meaningful Year of Holding Down a Stable Venue for Experimental Film (Arts)

Comments

When discussing this play, you need to be cautious not to imply that it's an accurate depiction of autism. Mark …

by Curio Onscreen on Theater Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Lights Up the Mathematics of the Mind (Arts)

First comment sounds like Crawford wrote it.

by Chris Kassel on Scott Crawford Refused to Sell Us a Plate of Food at Crawford and Son (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation