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One-night stands often produce repercussions, but few are as emotionally fraught as the one depicted in Neil Labute‘s two-hander, receiving its world premiere at off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre. Starring Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski as the couple who drunkenly hook up after a wedding reception, The Way We Get By displays the author’s typical penchant for pulling the rug out from under his audience.
At first it’s hard to fathom why the wildly attractive and sexy Doug (Sadoski) and Beth (Seyfried, making her stage debut) are so painfully awkward around each other the morning after their obviously passionate hookup. Doug, in particular, seems incredibly jumpy, waking up in the middle of the night and puttering around Beth’s apartment as if he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
Walking into the living room after Doug makes the mistake of turning on a blaring TV, Beth at first seems a little put-out by his behavior but is soon acting flirtatiously, to the point of initiating oral sex to which he quickly puts a stop.
“Once is a gimme,” he explains, referring to their lovemaking. “But twice is a … pattern.”
To reveal more of the reasons for the characters’ discomfort would be too much of a spoiler. But suffice it to say that LaBute doesn’t develop his provocative premise in particularly interesting fashion. Much of the dialogue about the couple’s concern over reactions of their friends and family should they decide to take the relationship further proves banal and repetitive.
Still, the playwright’s gift for amusing banter is very much on display, garnering more than a few laughs with running gags involving such things as the unsavoriness of American Apparel ads and Doug’s geeky protectiveness of his vintage Star Wars T-shirt that Beth makes the mistake of wearing.
More interestingly, the play deviates from his usual brand of misanthropy with a feel-good, happy ending that, while not particularly convincing or well developed, at least doesn’t send us out with a sour taste in our mouths.
Performing on Neil Patel‘s sleek NYC apartment set under the unobtrusive direction of Leigh Silverman, the actors struggle with their ill-defined characters. Sadoski, a veteran stage performer, is the more technically assured, but his one-note, high-volume delivery eventually proves tiresome. Seyfried, who replaced the initially announced Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), is winsome and appealing but often seems adrift, with her gratuitous flash of nudity feeling exploitative.
Cast: Thomas Sadoski, Amanda Seyfried
Playwright: Neil LaBute
Director: Leigh Silverman
Set designer: Neil Patel
Costume designer: Emily Rebholz
Lighting designer: Matt Frey
Sound designer: Bart Fassbender
Presented by Second Stage Theatre
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