Review: ‘Some Kind of Bliss’

It has more style than substance, but Samuel Adamson's "Some Kind of Bliss," arriving from London via 59E59's Brits Off Broadway festival, is still an hour's worth of fun.

It has more style than substance, but Samuel Adamson’s “Some Kind of Bliss,” arriving from London via 59E59’s Brits Off Broadway festival, is still an hour’s worth of fun. Credit goes largely to British thesp Lucy Briers, for whom Adamson wrote this cracked tale of a journalist who gets sidetracked while traveling to interview the pop star Lulu. With a soul-clearing sigh or a spastic jerk of her arms, Briers turns a sarcastic Londoner into a recognizable Everywoman. Even when she’s killing a dog with an ice cream truck, it’s easy to root for her.

The script warns us she’s a pooch-murderer right away. Straggling on with one boot missing and her hair undone, Rachel (Briers) deadpans, “Today — after I’d had the electric sex, got clobbered, killed the dog and parked the hijacked ice cream van — I found the pop legend’s house in Britain.” That’s a storytelling jolt that leaves you wanting more, and it sets the tone for the show’s self-deprecating cleverness.

At the end of this brief one-act, when coincidences are piling high and Rachel finds symbolism in her terrible day, Adamson trades authenticity for indulgent literary flourishes. Early scenes, however, inject surprising comedy into a crisis.

After telling us how it ends, the play jumps to the start of Rachel’s day, as she narrates the string of choices that lead her to disaster. Witty tirades about a spoiled nephew and overpriced marijuana bleed into older memories about meeting her husband, trying to please her rock-star uncle, and realizing she’s tired of her job.

The free-association structure lets Rachel get amusingly off-topic, while also painting a detailed portrait of her life-long dissatisfaction. When she decides to steal an ice-cream truck, we can appreciate why it’s a liberating act.

Sound designer Richard Hammarton sharpens the comedy by exaggerating key details. When Rachel sees an attractive teenager leaning against a tree, she demonstrates how he winks at her, and when she winks, it sounds like a sonic boom. That tells us everything about the kid’s sex appeal.

When she’s not acting the exhausted narrator, Briers, making her Gotham debut, lets us see the excitable neurotic who could actually be seduced by a winking street punk. She’s especially adept at interrupting herself, communicating conflicting thoughts with nothing but half sentences.

Using different voices for each of her points of view — and occasionally for other people in the story — she creates charming bits that also keep the pace moving and the narrative clear.

Working with director Toby Frow, thesp proves just as nimble with the dramatic demands of the final moments. Here’s hoping this isn’t her only visit to the States.

Some Kind of Bliss

59E59; 50 seats; $27.50 top


An Adam Knight presentation of a play in one act by Samuel Adamson. Directed by Toby Frow.


Sets and costumes, Lucy Osborne; lighting, Stephen Holroyd; original music and sound, Richard Hammarton; production stage manager, Cheryl D. Olszowka. Opened June 15, 2008. Reviewed June 12. Running time: 1 HOUR, 5 MIN.


Rachel - Lucy Briers
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