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A Perfect Future

David Hay's play about a gathering of Manhattanites is muddled and often unbelievable.

Donna Bullock, Scott Drummond, Michael T. Weiss
and Daniel Oreskes in A Perfect Future
(© Richard Termine)
Drop signifiers such as "Bertolucci" and "Volvo" into the opening salvo, as David Hay does in his new play A Perfect Future, now premiering at the Cherry Lane, and we know we have been placed squarely in the land of the limousine liberal.

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.