Reviewed by Irene Backalenick
Presented by The Harbor Theatre at the Grove Street Playhouse, 39 Grove Street, NYC, Sept. 6-30.
How appropriate that "Order Up Watch TV" is the title of this Off-Broadway piece by Stephanie Lehmann! The main character, as it happens, is the TV set itself—and not any of the three people embroiled in its toils.
The playwright cleverly makes the point that television can dominate one's life, substituting a fantasy world for reality. Unfortunately, Lehmann muddies the waters with a parallel theme of sibling rivalry. Miles and Ella, brother and sister, are each involved in the entertainment world—he successfully, she abysmally. When she turns to him for help, old skeletons tumble out of the closet.
Much of this family dynamic is merely suggested, rather than explored in depth. Moreover, Lehmann takes too much time dwelling on exchanges between Ella and her boy friend, an ongoing dialogue that is tiresome and repetitive. Scenes between Ella and the TV set are more amusing—and have the potential to be even more so. The playwright, however, has not quite decided whether "Order Up Watch TV" is comedy or kitchen-sink drama, and the mood seesaws between one and the other.
Though this play could use tightening, honing, and focussing, it is, under Harry Bouvy's direction, often insightful and moving. Much has to do with the fine performances of Dee Dee Friedman as the troubled, quirky sister, and Michael Anderson as her smug, arrogant brother. Timothy Harris, as Ella's boy friend, gives a fuzzier, less decisive portrayal. But Friedman is a treasure, a gift that never stops giving, making the most of every line, and coming through with an endless variety of expression and movement.
Praise also goes to Richard Dennis' set (essentially one giant bed), Douglas Filomena's lighting, and Martha Bromelmeier's costumes—all of which give support to the production.