You’ve Got Hate Mail
by Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore
Directed by Gary Shaffer
Featuring Barbara Bonilla, Glenn Jones, Billy Van Zandt, Jane Milmore
The Triad, 158 West 72nd Street
October 7, 2011 — open (every Friday at 7pm)
production web site
Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
October 14, 2011
Friday night middle-aged dates all around (and my middle-aged solo rear end ensconced at a well placed cabaret table, sipping iced coffee), I settle into the old school cabaret space on West 72nd Street. House music composed of Rat Pack stalwarts Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, red and black and gold color scheme of table chairs and walls, and tiny proscenium stage at far end of the playing space. Five music stands, five stools, five different libations at the side of our five performers and we’re off for eighty minutes of one liners and sexist jokes. Defending the Caveman meets Love Loss and What I Wore with a heavy tip of the hat to a twisted take on Love Letters. Here we are meant to follow a drama of marital infidelity and sexual experimentation involving five characters in emails and instant messages read to us in an intermission-less eighty minutes. Reading messages aloud with sexism from another generation. Discuss.
Actually, there isn’t all that much to discuss deeply. What playwrights and performers Billy Van Zandt (as philandering husband Richard) and Jane Milmore (as clueless and eventually empowered wife Stephanie) provide is a commentary on well-to-do professional class morality in a law firm and in the tony suburban life the husband’s income provides.
Honestly, a play when a character reports via email that “I sort of have my hands full” and is not referring to busy preoccupation to paper work, well, we know where we are and where this play is headed. The characters without a stake in the marriage at the core of the story, architect Peg (Barbara Bonilla) and Richard’s colleague George (Glenn Jones) masterfully milk much out of their story lines. And the assistant Wanda (Fran Solgan) who blithely beds her superior and moves on to another as soon as this avenue dries up is the most thankless role for anyone with feminist sensibilities. Then again, those sensibilities are not the focus of this kind of story telling.
I was always a step or so ahead of the plots twists (who is doing what to whom and how secrets are revealed, usually by sending an email to the wrong email address), though there were plenty of gasps of surprise in my audience.
© Martha Wade Steketee (October 17, 2011)