The Layover

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Photo: Joan Marcus Review
Perhaps there should be seat belts installed at Second Stage, because Leslye Headland’s dark-hued, thoroughly unsettling drama “The Layover” is full of turbulence, unexpected turns, and (semi-spoiler alert) a sudden crash landing. All of which are very appropriate for a play that begins with the meeting of two strangers on a plane at Thanksgiving (and which, at times, deliberately echoes Patricia Highsmith’s “Strangers on a Train”) and follows their very unconventional “relationship” over the course of several weeks.

Shellie (Annie Parisse) is an unmarried teacher at Hunter College, specializing in American crime fiction, while Dex (Adam Rothenberg) is an engineer, loath to initially admit what is waiting for him in New York. Of course, how much of the truth each person is actually revealing to the other eventually comes out, but even the most experienced playgoer probably won’t guess the extent of the falsehoods. And since this is one of those plays that it’s best to know as little about as possible in advance, that’s the end of my plot summation.

So, here’s what I can tell you. Headland, who has matured as a playwright since “Bachelorette” and “Assistance,” has a very sharp ear for dialogue, a keen eye for detail, and a nose for getting at the heart of human relationships in all their complexities. Trip Cullman directs the 100-minute work with smart pacing and an enviable flair for not telegraphing what comes next; he also makes optimal use of Mark Wendland’s superb set, which is as full of surprises as Headland’s script. Clint Ramos’ up-to-the-minute costumes are beautifully chosen and Japhy Weidman’s lighting design is spot-on. My one caveat: as much as I admire Jeff Sugg’s projections, they often seem superfluous, or worse yet, distracting.

For all its technical prowess, however, “The Layover” relies mostly on its cast to deliver the goods. The ever-lovely Parisse, one of the stage world’s underappreciated treasures, naturally engenders sympathy (or at least empathy) no matter what her circumstance or action, which goes a long way to making the play work so well. Rothenberg, so handsome he could be a living Ken doll, manages to keep us off-guard, switching emotional gears from 0 to 60 in seconds flat. And the show’s supporting players, John Procaccino, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Amelia Workman, and Arica Himmel, each perform their various tasks (again, I’m not telling what they do) to perfection.

Perhaps there should also be earphones on each seat, as a take-home present. Because after seeing “The Layover,” you will definitely have second thoughts about starting a conversation with anyone you don’t know sitting beside you on a plane, train, bus, subway, or even in the theater.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Quincy Dunn-Baker, Arica Himmel, Annie Parisse, John Procaccino, Adam Rothenberg, Amelia Workman

Open/Close Dates
Opening 8/9/2016
Closing 9/22/2016

Box Office

Theatre Info
Second Stage Theatre
307 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036