Cradle to Grave

Sometimes when reviewing plays, the most difficult part is trying to summarize the plot without giving too much away. But for A Guy Adrift in the Universe, it's really pretty simple: a guy is born, lives, then dies. I'm not being glib or overly succinct. That is really exactly what happens in Larry Kunofksy's play, which is having its world premiere at Four Chairs Theater. The play tracks the life cycle of one nameless person as he navigates the tricky terrain of adolescence, dating, marriage, divorce, raising children, and old age.

We first meet Guy as he sits blinking on the stage, grasping the concept that he has just been born. He encounters various people—the doctor, his mother and father—who less than gently break the news that he cannot return to the safety of the womb. Guy reacts to this news by either telling them to shut up or cursing at them. Eighty minutes later, after similarly caustic conversations with classmates, co-workers, his spouse, kids, and lovers, he shuffles off the stage for the Great Beyond.

Guy's entire lifespan lasts 80 minutes. And except for some amusing instances, it felt as if it was dragging on twice as long. If you're going to sit through the entire lifetime of a character, he should be somewhat likable or endearing in some way.

The playwright communicates Guy's confusion, especially in his early years, by having him repeatedly whine and spew curses. It just seems too simplistic a way to demonstrate how Guy has trouble adjusting to life's inherent weirdness and his own hormones. It's also very tiring to sit through.

The role seems like an actor's dream: the chance to portray a stream of personas and emotions at a breakneck pace. Cory Grant is talented and deftly demonstrates his character's vulnerable side the rare times it is revealed. But shrillness is an essential part of the character, and Grant's choice to shout much of his dialogue further keeps him from being the universal character he is supposed to be.

Not even Guy's deathbed monologue, in which he wistfully thanks the universe for all it has given him (orgasms receive the most appreciation), can redeem him. For me, the play never fully recovers from these dialogue and acting choices.

Still, there is much to recommend. The supporting cast takes on the roles of various characters in Guy's life, and all the performers give engaging performances. Zarah Kravitz as A Woman zestfully tackles roles ranging from Guy's June Cleaver-esque mother to Guy's lover during his middle-aged years (the Freudian implications aren't accidental). Corey Patrick as Another Guy infuses his various characters—including Guy's father, boss, co-worker, and son—with a laid-back geniality.

Sutton Crawford is outstanding as Another Woman, who plays many roles, including a pivotal one as Guy's first girlfriend. The two share a "sex scene" in which they sit together under a blanket and experience the discomforts and delights of losing one's virginity while facing the audience. It's a hilarious scene, and the true comic highlight of the play. Crawford and Grant exhibit great chemistry, and Guy is allowed a monologue about intimacy that gives a hint of what his character could have been if not drawn in such broad, overbearing strokes.

The play is staged at Four Chairs Theaters, and so, fittingly, the stage is spare save for four chairs and a wall adorned with pegs. As characters exit the stage, they leave behind a prop—a bouquet of flowers from a first date, a baby's bottle, a briefcase—by hanging or setting it on the wall. So as Guy's life marches toward its inevitable conclusion, the detritus of the experiences that have marked and defined him are on display. It's a marvelously imaginative stage design to have the set evolve to reveal a man's life over age and time.

A Guy Adrift in the Universe sets about to illustrate life's hardest truth: no matter how much pain and sorrow we endure through the years, we must keep on going because, well, we have no choice. It's a blunt lesson, but made blunter still by Guy, who chooses to absorb this idea with a foul mouth and a tiresome attitude.

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