A Perfect Future
David Hay's play about a gathering of Manhattanites is muddled and often unbelievable.
If any doubt remains, the photo of Fidel enjoying pride of place in this swanky Manhattan living room would provide a telling hint as to the occupants' leftist leanings. So why anyone, however young and uncouth, would feel at ease relating a racist joke in this setting remains one of several puzzles that riddle this muddled, rather inert script.
As the play begins, the lady of the house, Natalie Schiff-Hudson (Donna Bullock) is enjoying a catch-up chat with Elliot (dignified Daniel Oreskes), a one-time radical-in-arms who has devoted his life to AIDS activism. She's a blocked filmmaker, whose documentary on the Rwandan genocide has been moldering in the can for a decade, while she deals with a crippling depression, and -- not surprisingly, given her surroundings -- a sense of inauthenticity.
Still, while she demurs on Elliot's request that she join the defense committee for their mutual "compadre," a healthcare advocate and former Black Panther now accused of terrorism, she's more than happy to reach for a checkbook.
The source of Natalie's evidently ample funds are soon made clear; her husband, John Hudson (Michael T. Weiss), has made a killing in the field of risk management. While Weiss skews a bit young for the role (moreover, many of the play's allusions suggest 1960s activism, rather than the 1970s aftermath), he certainly conveys the panache of a modern-day captain of industry. The real oddity is that Natalie doesn't seem to have caught on to the fact that she is married to a capitalist pig.
Further revelations and complications unfurl in act two -- including the racist joke made by John's young guest from the office (Scott Drummond), after having been treated to a drunken Hump-the-Hostess dirty dance. Even more oddly, the hosts don't kick him out -- they keep stirring the risotto and getting progressively schnockered on $1,000-a-bottle Chateau d'Yquem. Meanwhile, Elliot and Scott gradually develop a rapport, prompted by a mutual, growing contempt for their hosts.
Unfortunately for the audience, by the time they make their chummy exit, there's no one left to like on stage in this decidedly imperfect play.