If any of the five women and two men in “Loose Knit” have any redeeming qualities, playwright Theresa Rebeck has gone to considerable length to hide them, and she’s been amply assisted by director Beth Schachter. The women are being humiliated when they’re not being duplicitous, while the men are creeps. If irony is intended, or simply realism, it nonetheless comes across at the Second Stage as misanthropy.
The women are friends joined together in a knitting circle, where they talk mostly about their jobs and their men, or lack of same. Earthy Lily (Patricia Kalember) is married to New Man (i.e., he does laundry) Bob (Reed Birney), who’s having an affair with her sister Liz (Mary B. Ward), a pop journalist.
Paula (Tamara Tunie) is a psychologist who can’t get over the fact that people pay for the privilege of lying to therapists. Gina (Kristine Nielsen) is a laid-off lawyer who may have found a new life in her knitting.
Margie (Constance Shulman), like Paula and Liz, is looking for a man, and all three eventually have dates with Miles (Daniel Gerroll), a smug mergers & acquisitions millionaire with a predilection for overpriced sushi and the annoying habit of taking extensive notes on his dates during his dates.
He reduces Margie to blithering incoherence, Paula to rage and Liz to petty theft; stealing his notebook, she realizes that Lily is the unseen hand behind these blind dates — though how they were arranged without the women knowing who was doing the arranging is just one of the play’s lapses in logic.
Though some of these actors are distinguished, none of the acting is, and Schachter’s staging is hopelessly incompetent. Rebeck has overlapping dialogue in several scenes, and you can practically feel the actors winding up before each of them.
Santo Loquasto’s set is also undistinguished, though it gets everything necessary on the theater’s tiny stage. Frances Aronson’s lighting is typically warm, though she bathes Gerroll in an unchanging white glare; why not just draw a curled mustache on his upper lip? Elsa Ward’s costumes look nicely lived-in.
In the real world, friends surely betray and hurt their friends; alliances and liaisons shift. But “Loose Knit” is cold merchandise. What’s missing is any sense of an author’s empathy for any of these characters, not to mention any sense of their growth. It’s got no soul.