Matthew Micucci and Stephanie Wright Thompson
in Michael & Edie
(© Nick Gordon)
Matthew Micucci and Stephanie Wright Thompson
in Michael & Edie
(© Nick Gordon)
In Rachel Bonds' worthwhile new play, Michael & Edie, now at the Access Theatre, the title characters are highly literate twenty-somethings who work in a small bookstore (probably in Brooklyn) run by John (Gabel Eiben), an eccentric man who may have some shady side dealings.

Michael (Matthew Micucci) likes Edie (Stephanie Wright Thompson) a lot, but he can't quite find out how to tell her. Instead, he writes love letters to her in his mind in a "let me count the ways" kind of way. He also imagines how she grew up and other details about her life, most of which turn out to be completely wrong, but his love for her never diminishes.

Edie's more reluctant. She locks herself up inside her body to deal with a loss that has deeply affected her ability to believe in happy endings. She reads a lot when not immersed in the day-to-day operations of the bookstore and tries to convince herself that's all she needs. When Michael awkwardly asks her to go to a screening of an obscure film, she reluctantly agrees. In a traditional romcom, this would lead to a spontaneous spark between the two and the beginning of a passionate but neurotic coupling of sorts. However, Bonds is more interested in exploring isolation and how people deal with the inability to connect.

Bonds' dialogue is often witty and well constructed, effortlessly flowing from the mouths of Micucci and Thompson, who have a natural chemistry. As their characters flirt with the idea of flirting, glances and subtle gestures carry many key moments. Director Robert Saenz de Viteri's keen sense of staging and the inventive art installations by Hugh Morris further immerse us in Bonds' world, but she takes us out of it near the end when the play veers into the esoteric.

Michael's teenage sister, Sarah (Jocelyn Kuritsky), who's been struggling with depression, starts having conversations with Edie's (Jacob Wilhelmi) dead brother, Ben. Strange as it is, it could work -- if there was a reason why she'd be imagining him. However, Michael doesn't even know at this point that Edie has a brother, and it becomes a confusing plot point that leads the play astray.

Additionally, the plays last scene feels unfinished. When the stage abruptly goes to black, there's a great pang of loss that washes over us of what could have been. Bonds has a lot more to explore with Michael and Edie and Sarah.