Directed by Benjamin Kamine
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Everyone in Paul Bomba’s “The Man Under,” currently running at 59E59 Theater C, is either in need of being saved (Jeff) or needs to be a savior (Martin), is skilled at being a confessor (Martin again) or is a practiced penitent (Jennifer), is either into holding hands and cuddling (Jeff) or into asphyxiophilia (Lisa). Any or all of these character traits combined with the appropriate conflicts could drive an interesting plot.
Unfortunately, the play’s characters are poorly developed in Mr. Bomba’s script, their conflicts uninteresting, and the resulting plot is less than engaging. It is not clear whether the actors (including the playwright) gave up on their attempts to make sense of the script or were simply ineffective at their craft (an option that seems unlikely). It is even more difficult to discern the precise role of the director in the failure of this performance; however, ultimately Benjamin Kamine must assume the share of responsibility for not steering “The Man Under” in a direction more closely resembling success.
It is somewhat difficult for a playwright to perform in his or her own play. In this case, it seems Paul Bomba had some difficulty distancing himself from the role of playwright and portraying the angst-ridden suicide-driven Jeff. Additionally, Theater C is a difficult space to launch a production that requires multiple sets. Julia Noulin-Merat, Charlie Forster, and Jeremy S. Bloom did their best to create an apartment with interior rooms, a subway platform with oncoming train lights and sound, ethereal settings for soliloquies, and the semblance of an adjacent apartment for Jennifer.
Hopefully, the cast and creative team can reflect on the production in its current state and make changes before the end of the play’s current run.