I'm sad, but not from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The fall season ended with Manhattan Theatre Club's opening Molly Smith Metzler's Close Up Space, a work neatly encapsulating everything new plays do that has been making me sad for months. I bear Metzler no ill will. As with too many other recent plays, hers has some distinct virtues, but its faults outnumber them so heavily as to make theatergoing burdensome: Instead of engaging creatively with the event onstage, you expend all your energy looking for little things within it to like in compensation for its generally dismaying nature.
I can't blame Metzler for repeating the pattern. Like all playwrights, she wants to get produced. Naturally, she has turned out the sort of play our would-be serious theaters increasingly tend to produce. They, too, strive to imitate previous successes; everybody's following the Ruhls. The result, in Close Up Space, is a viscous mixture of sitcom and after-school special. It opens with patent absurdity, in an ostensibly naturalistic context, and ends in a glop of would-be tragic ironies. Reality, heightened or everyday, is the one thing it virtually never touches.
You know, I'm glad (of course) that people