Sue Jean Kim, Cassie Beck, Barrett Foa, and Mike Colter
in The Drunken City
(© Joan Marcus)
Sue Jean Kim, Cassie Beck, Barrett Foa, and Mike Colter
in The Drunken City
(© Joan Marcus)
Watching a bunch of inebriated people on stage might seem like a dubious premise, but Adam Bock's bittersweet romantic comedy The Drunken City, getting its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons, has such an endearingly quirky style that it quickly draws the audience in. The show, sharply directed by Trip Cullman, provokes plenty of laughter, but also contains insightful observations about love and friendship.

Melissa (Maria Dizzia), Marnie (Cassie Beck), and Linda (Sue Jean Kim) are the best of friends and all newly engaged. However, a night out in the city to celebrate one of their impending nuptials faces serious complications when the girls meet up with tap-dancing dentist Eddie (Barrett Foa) and his buddy Frank (Mike Colter). Marnie and Frank make an immediate connection, which soon has the former confronting her doubts about the reasons she's getting married. When the two of them sneak off together, Melissa and Linda call in their friend Bob (Alfredo Narciso) to help sort out the mess.

Bock's dialogue displays a poetic sensibility while staying rooted in everyday language; fragments, incomplete thoughts, and sudden realizations that change the direction a sentence is going are all utilized to create heightened but natural sounding conversation.

Beck does an excellent job showcasing Marnie's shifting thoughts and emotions, and has great chemistry with Colter, who gets to perform a bizarre dance in the latter half of the play. (The choreography is by John Carrafa.) Foa is charming and adorable, and his interactions with Narciso are deliciously filled with sexual tension. Dizzia allows her character's jealousy and fragile emotional state to show through at key moments that are alternately amusing and poignant, while Kim handles some of the play's odder speeches with aplomb.

David Korins' set has a tilting platform that literally demonstrates the shaky ground that the characters are treading. Bart Fasbender has done a terrific job with the sound design, particularly with the slight echo effect during a sequence taking place in a church. Jenny Mannis' costumes, Matthew Richards' lighting, and Michael Friedman's original music also make positive contributions to the production's overall aesthetic.

Following the night of drunken revelations and confrontations, Bock also shows us the morning after. Certain plot threads come to predictable resolutions, while others do not. Some of the things said in the heat of passion the previous night can't be taken back, destroying relationships, perhaps forever. But the playwright offers hope, too, as at least one couple is poised to make a new beginning.