|YOU WILL GET SICK|
Given her decades of brilliant performances, perhaps it’s not completely accurate to say “practice makes perfect” in the case of Linda Lavin. Nonetheless, at age 85, the veteran star is delivering a flawless turn as the foul-mouthed, utterly practical yet inherently good Callan, an elderly woman who ends up becoming an unlikely caregiver to a dying 30ish man (nicely played by Daniel K. Isaac) in “You Will Get Sick,” now at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre under Sam Pinkleton’s often imaginative direction.
As for the work’s playwright, Noah Diaz; he is only 28. Which means he has plenty of time to practice his craft, and a “perfect” play is possibly in his future. This one (first written in 2018 and revised since then) is often affecting and profound and feels all too timely in the age of Covid. But it also suffers from a “more is more” approach that makes us think at times when we should really just be allowed to feel.
At its most basic, this 90-minute one-act focuses primarily on the transactional relationship between Isaac’s character (only known as #1) and Callan, who will not do anything for him without taking money for her “troubles.” And while the piece may be a comment on a capitalism, what the play does best is remind all of us about the inevitably and possible suddenness of death (at any age); the need for friendship and companionship (at some – or any cost); and the difficulties many of us have in admitting – to ourselves and others – both our physical and moral failings.
None of these are cheery subjects, but the play contains many laughs, most of them thanks to Lavin’s deliciously acerbic delivery and willingness to drop the “f bomb” with alarming ease. But she also lets us see Callan’s vulnerability and “innocence,” as she not only tries to reinvent herself as an actress but fervently believes she can land a part intended for a teenager.
While it’s clever (and inherent to the plot) that the piece is set in a time before cell phones, I felt the inclusion of giant birds who eat people (another reminder of sudden death) to be unnecessary. The play’s almost constant allusions to “The Wizard of Oz” become ridiculously overwhelming. And, personally, I could also do without the voiceovers that simply tell us what we’re seeing. Others, I admit, may feel differently about these authorial choices.
While Lavin and Isaac are the heart and soul of the show, Pinkleton’s production is also aided by the first-rate work of Marinda Anderson, Nate Miller and Dario-Ladani Sanchez, each excellent in a number of roles. Kudos also belong to the top-flight creative team -- including the set design collective dots, costume designers Michael Krass and Alicia Austin, lighting designer Cha Sea and sound designer Lee Kinney – whose contributions must be acknowledged.
Thoughtful plays are never to be discouraged, even if they are occasionally frustrating. Superb performances, like Lavin’s, are never to be missed. So, you should go see “You Will Get Sick” while you’re well enough to attend.
By Brian Scott Lipton
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