Meg's New Friend

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Photo Source: Deanna Frieman
Topicality is at the heart of Blair Singer's new play "Meg's New Friend." The time is now, the characters are immediately recognizable, and the playwright's original theme is of the moment. But before the satisfactory fade-out is reached in this topical comedy, there are some well-worn paths about modern relationships to be trod.

Meg (Megan McQuillan) is a local New York television features reporter who suddenly realizes she is not au courant. Here she is, in the age of Obama, without one African-American friend. She has a live-in boyfriend, the lawyer Sam (Michael Solomon). Sam's sister, Rachel (Mary Cross), who runs an emergency room, is her best friend. Rachel's new beau is Ty (Damon Gupton), a yoga instructor who teaches a program for at-risk adolescents in Newark. Meg meets Ty at a party Rachel gives for her and Sam and almost immediately speaks of a possible "affirmative-action friendship." As a result, she does a television news segment on Ty and his project. Against her will, Meg finds that she too is attracted to Ty, and messy relationship games begin.

Probably the best contemporary feature of "Meg's New Friend" is that the racial identity of the characters is incidental. In a sequence of swift sound-bite scenes—Singer is a noted television writer—75 intermissionless minutes give us the seeds of a possible interracial romance. The author seems to have aimed for a gritty romantic comedy but at times loses his way amid the thickets of dramatic dysfunction: In throwing the spotlight on Meg and Ty, Singer underwrites Sam and Rachel. For grit, the playwright sometimes sounds like a Mamet-in-training, with expletives liberally thrown into the mix, giving these attractive, intelligent characters rather limited vocabularies.

Nevertheless, Singer is a sleek, naturalistic writer, and as playwright-in-residence for the Production Company, he has tailored the roles for members of the troupe. Under Mark Armstrong's skillful direction, all four performers create convincing contemporary characters: Cross with her anger, Solomon with his heartbreak, Gupton with his smooth talk, and especially McQuillan, who presents a detailed portrait of a sympathetic, bewildered woman of 2009.

Presented by the Production Company at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal St., NYC. Nov.29–Dec.20. Mon., Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111,, or