Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Light Lunch
Written by A.R. Gurney
Directed by Jim Simpson
Starring Havilah Brewster, Beth Hoyt, Tom Lipinski, John Russo, Erin Roth

Performances December 12, 2008—January 25, 2009

The Flea Theater
41 White Street

Brewster, Russo, Lipinski
and Hoyt in A Light Lunch
(photo: Richard Termine)
A.R. Gurney has gotten in has fair share of potshots at President Bush in the past few years, particularly in plays that premiered at the Flea Theater, notably Mrs. Farnsworth. So if the genteel and witty Gurney feels obligated to get in a couple of last licks with A Light Lunch, who are we to begrudge him?

Of course, A Light Lunch is a distinctly minor work in the Gurney canon, 80 minutes of mildly funny observations that further solidify the case that Bush’s presidency was disastrous. At this late date, however, Gurney’s humorous asides are blunted by the fact that we’re finally rid of this administration. That the plot itself–a meeting between Gurney’s agent and a rising young Texas lawyer with a client who wants to buy the rights in perpetuity to Gurney’s latest play because it’s so critical of the departing president–refers to Bush’s post-January 20 irrelevance doesn’t make the play any meatier.

For the main problem–aside from its crashing inconsequence–is the basic absurdity of the high-powered Bush clan worrying about what a playwright says about Dubya in a work that might be seen by a few thousand people during a limited run at a tiny theater in Tribeca. Gurney admittedly has fun with this fact, along with self-effacingly referring to himself as old and insignificant and even making amusing connections between his and Bush’s privileged backgrounds.

Gurney also tweaks theater critics and professors, desperate actresses working as waitresses, and liberals who blame everything on Bush, among other easy targets. With the help of a cast of talented young actors, director Jim Simpson makes A Light Lunch digestible enough, but this amiably forgettable play is one of Gurney’s slightest.

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