|Liz Hayes and Nael Nacer take a breather. Photo: Andrew Brilliant.|
One thing is clear about Lungs.
You have to have amazing lung power to perform it.
Particularly if, like the talented Liz Hayes (above, with the equally gifted Nael Nacer), you're trying to put over the nameless "W," who comprises only half the cast of Duncan Macmillan's two-hander (through March 10 at the New Rep), but who is talking for something like 90% of the script. "W" talks and talks. And talks. She banters, she barters, she barks; she harries and harangues, badgers and berates, accosts and accuses. She never shuts up.
And this causes problems for Hayes, and Macmillan's play, too. It's not just that Lungs never gives its leading lady a chance to catch her breath; it's that her character's annoying volubility keeps drawing focus from what appears to be Macmillan's theme. The playwright seems to be attempting a kind of wry black comedy about the way millennial morals bleed into narcissism - for when "M" innocently suggests to "W" that they think about having a baby (he pops the question in IKEA, no less), she erupts not with happy surprise but instead with every save-the-planet cliché in the Whole Earth Catalogue (remember that?), as well as every insecure accusation she can think of. Indeed, unlike just about every other professional woman with an eye on the biological clock, "W" seems determined to find every and any excuse not to have a child.
But therein lies the rub. As "W" rants on about her carbon footprint (so why not stop talking?) and her doubts about her partner - he smokes (!), he needs a better job - we begin to realize that all her criticism isn't going anywhere constructive. There's no plan for the future in the offing, and the possibility of adoption is never investigated - the conversation is just a cascade of her own issues; indeed, "W" sucks up so much oxygen that we begin to wonder why anyone in his right mind would want a child with her; for a gay man, watching these scenes is like peering into the seventh circle of some special heterosexual hell.