Directed by Benjamin Kamine
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Once upon a time there was a couple who, while vacationing in Vegas, decide to get married in the Little White Wedding Chapel. When they return home to Manhattan, Michael (played with a powerful vulnerability by Johnny Wu) assumes he will be able to move in to his new wife Sonya’s (played with the charming mix of feisty aggressiveness with gentle susceptiveness by playwright Nandita Shenoy) Upper East Side studio condo. But when the doorman won’t let Michael up to the apartment without buzzing Sonya, this fairy tale begins to unravel. It turns out that Sonya never mentioned Michael would have to stay in the apartment illegally nor did she share her slight discomfort about being married. That discomfort reveals itself in the nervous tic Sonya displays when saying the word ‘marriage.’ Add Michael’s overprotective mother to the mix and the fairy tale morphs into a delicious farce – prat falls and all.
Nandita Shenoy’s “Washer/Dryer,” currently running at the Beckett Theater on Theater Row, is the engaging tale of how Michael and Sonya navigate their dual-ethnicity marriage given the pressures of culture and tradition and how they ultimately deal with the lack of transparency that has plagued their relationship from the start. Ma-Yi’s smart cast easily navigates Ms. Shenoy’s clever script to a happily-ever-after ending that makes the hearing of this tale sweet and satisfying.
Sonya’s prized combination washer and electric dryer is the play’s trope (extended metaphor here) for both that which challenges her relationship with Michael and that which ultimately reconciles them. It has taken Sonya a long time to achieve independence and “washer/dryer” status and after rushing into the marriage with Michael, she is not certain she should relinquish that freedom. It takes the village of her friend Sam (Jamyl Dobson), the Co-op Board Chair Wendee (played with an appropriate yet annoying officiousness by Annie McNamara), and even Michael’s mother Dr. Lee (Jade Wu)) to understand they really are meant for one another and that marriage was the right arrangement for their future.
Ms. Shenoy’s well-crafted script is directed with a steady hand by Benjamin Kamine and each member of the ensemble cast delivers believable and authentic performances. Jade Wu delivers a particularly memorable performance as Michael’s uber-protective mother who ultimately negotiates a victory for her son and his new wife – a victory in relationship and in real estate. Jamyl Dobson is perfect as Sonya’s gay neighbor whose gender-bending tryst with Michael is as hilarious as it is engaging and thought-provoking.
The performance viewed for this review seemed a little under rehearsed with the timing a bit off. Given the credentials of the cast and creative team, this issue will have been resolved by now. “Washer/Dryer” is worth a look.