MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING by James Hindman
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
at the New Jersey Repertory Company
on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 8pm
“When the lights go up on MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING, James Hindman's new play at New Jersey Rep, the audience is plunged full-swing into party mode. Don't let the “Little Mermaid” party favors fool you. The eight-year old celebrant has long toddled off(stage) to bed leaving the grown-ups to enjoy each other's company – along with a liberal supply of adult beverages. It's all great fun – until someone's gaze strays in the wrong direction and what was once festive turns fierce - and fast. From then on, we're witness to a four person game of truth or dare, where truth seems in short supply.
The audience fights the urge to reach for their car keys due to director Alan Souza's brilliant cast; an attractive, witty, foursome of thirty-somethings. Even on opening night this tight ensemble was firing on all cylinders. Dustin Charles (James) and Maria Couch (Kelly) are the married MFD's landlords and Jared Michael Delaney (Stuart) and Dana Brooke (Tia) are their engaged besties and possible tenants. Charles and Couch do a terrific job of embodying a settled couple with a hint of discontent beneath the surface. Delaney and Brooke have genuine chemistry, the sort that impulsively puts physical attraction ahead of common sense. Brooke has the play's toughest agenda: balancing her character's tipsy party girl presence while sensitively alluding to (and avoiding) her troubled past. Fascinatingly, Brooke makes it all work.
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING really covers no new ground in the age-old mating game, but Hindman and Souza do it in a consistently engaging way. Let's face it, if people were honest with each other from the start, there'd be no play, so we need to explore the highways and by-ways of cat-and-mouse deception in a way that sheds some light on human nature. Hindman does so in a direct, realistic way that also proves thought-provoking.
In his narrative of twisted home truths, the playwright has incorporated a subplot about gentrification; how troubled neighborhoods are reborn to profit the rich and drive out the poor. Like the persistent pet smell from the apartment upstairs or the closeted gay neighbor next door, it is a minor distraction in the 90-minute character study's narrative flow.
As a teen, I wore out my cast album of the Broadway musical ON THE 20th CENTURY. One song lyric goes “All those windows! All those people! All those lives!” For some inexplicable reason I initially heard the word “lies” instead of “lives.” Long after I learned that my ears had deceived me, I still had trouble accepting the true lyric. That pretty much sums up a visit to this MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING: windows – people - lies. And once you hear a lie, it's often difficult to trust the truth.
Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney
MULTIPLE FAMILY DWELLING continues through April 9 at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey. For tickets and further information about their upcoming Spring classes at their new West Side Arts Center call732-229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org”
Photo: Maria Couch and Dustin Charles
Photo credit: SuzAnne Barabas