The day before seeing “Sunday,” by British playwright Jack Thorne, I saw Martin Scorsese’s film “The Irishman,’ which is three hours and a half long. “Sunday,” although running only 90 minutes, seems longer.
The play set in New York involves a group that has formed a book club and the characters are mostly a self-indulgent lot who expound opinions and make literary references. They pontificate and try to sound deep, but are shallow to the core. There is only one encounter late in the play that is temporarily touching—more about that in a moment.
On a set stacked with a huge pile of books (scenic design by Brett J. Benakis) the characters who mostly aren’t worth caring much about chatter away endlessly, sometimes with hostility breaking out. Ruby Frankel plays Alice, who at the outset sits in an opening high above to give introductory remarks and information, and later clues us in from the future to tell us what happened to her and the others whom we have met.
Sadie Scott plays Marie, who is a bundle of uncertainty about herself. We meet Jill (Juliana Canfield), Keith (Christian Strange), Milo (Zain Pais), and also Bill (Maurice Jones), who lives in the building.
Eventually we get a scene between Bill and Marie when he turns up late at night in her apartment. He is attracted to her, and they have an intimate dialogue that reflects a level of honesty and genuine feelings through their conversational sparring. Marie aggressively kisses Bill, who is surprised by her action. He tells her all the things he likes about her, and she makes some off-putting demands from which he must choose to have a relationship, but the situation descends into lack of credibility. Marie gets on her knees in readiness to perform oral sex. Bill pulls away in resistance. She urges him to enter the bedroom with her. He refuses. If you believe all of that male behavior of rejecting such eagerly offered opportunity, good luck to you.
One idiotic aspect of the production is that every so often the cast goes into free-wheeling dancing, choreographed by the director, Lee Sunday Evans. The interludes make no sense at all and the dance steps aren’t even enjoyable to watch. At the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, 336 West 20th Street. Phone: 866-811-4111. Reviewed September 29, 2019.