Cast members in the revival of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s modest little comedy “Life x 3” tear into their roles with a vengeance, and that breathes life into one of Reza’s lesser works, here a presentation by New Light Theater Project. The translation is by Christopher Hampton.
Battling marital couples, one-upmanship and child raising are the subjects being worked over in confrontations that can be quite funny at times. The “x 3” in the title refers to getting three different versions of a gathering in the home of Henri (James Patrick Nelson) and Sonia (Claire Curtis-Ward). We first meet them when they are vehemently arguing about getting their six-year-old son to sleep.
The brat (we only hear his voice) alternately wants an apple and repeated cuddles. Sonia is dead against letting him eat in bed. Henri is more inclined to give in. The parental battle heats to a boil and reveals a rift in the marriage.
Matters get more complex as Hubert (Dominic Comperatore) and Ines (Leah Curney) mistakenly arrive a night too early for a dinner engagement. We have already seen them bickering when Ines discovers a run in her stocking and feels embarrassed by it and Hubert downgrades the problem and says she should just continue to the date and pay it no mind. It is clear this couple is also a mess.
The interaction of the four poses new problems. Henri, a research scientist who hasn’t published anything in three years, has written a paper on a theory involving the galaxy. He hopes that Hubert, his publisher, will see that his paper appears. Hubert, reveling in his superiority, takes pleasure in breaking the news that there is a problem. That’s in the first section.
In the ensuing two subtly altered versions of the get-together, matters change in different ways with varying results. Included is Hubert making a play for Sonia when Henri is in the other room with Ines, who wants a look at the obstreperous son (Ines and Hubert are also parents).
Reza has written quite a few funny lines, but the marital conflicts and the interplay between the couples mainly provide the humor. Although things can at moments become somewhat tedious even though the running time is only 80 minutes without an intermission, it is enjoyable watching the four excellent actors make the most of their roles.
Jerry Heymann as director tries to keeps each portion spinning, and the basic living room set designed by Brian Dudkiewicz is backed by a star-studded curtain with the stars shining brightly when the stage darkens. The play doesn’t always shine as brightly, but the actors consistently do. At Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street. Tickets: www.newlighttheaterproject.com. Reviewed November 25, 2018.