×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Satellites

Ethnic identity anxiety, cultural differences and personal pressure stack up against a mixed-race couple with a new baby in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood in Diana Son's "Satellites." The playwright's reunion, after 1998 hit "Stop Kiss," with the Public Theater and with star Sandra Oh is intelligent and well-intentioned but somewhat unsatisfying.

With:
Miles - Kevin Carroll Kit - Johanna Day Reggie - Ron Cephas Jones Mrs. Chae - Satya Lee Nina - Sandra Oh Eric - Clarke Thorell Walter - Ron Brice

Ethnic identity anxiety, cultural differences and personal pressure stack up against a mixed-race couple with a new baby in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood in Diana Son’s “Satellites.” The playwright’s reunion, after 1998 hit “Stop Kiss,” with the Public Theater and with star Sandra Oh is intelligent and well-intentioned but somewhat unsatisfying — like spending time with friends who were more fun and interesting before they became parents and the conversation got stuck on child-rearing, sleep deprivation and renovation headaches. Michael Greif’s hyperactive direction only exacerbates the play’s shortage of emotional involvement.

Falling into a trap that snares many writers tackling race issues — notably Paul Haggis with the overrated “Crash” — Son’s script feels schematic and overdetermined. Its characters and their ungrounded relationships don’t develop organically but seem to exist exclusively to advance plot points and embody various conflicts, stereotypes and reverse-stereotypes.

Korean-American architect Nina (Oh) and her African-American husband, Miles (Kevin Carroll), are first seen in the cramped corridor of their apartment soon after the birth of their baby, Hannah. In the first of set designer Mark Wendland’s neat tricks, the walls glide back and rotate to become the expansive, crumbling spaces of a long-uninhabited Brooklyn brownstone, the kind optimistically referred to by real estate brokers as fixer-uppers.

The brick hurled through the couple’s window is only the start of their problems. Finances are tight. Sex is a distant memory. Miles has lost his job in computers, leaving Nina to bring in the sole paycheck. Deadline is looming for an international architecture competition, and Nina’s partner Kit (Johanna Day) feels maternity is sapping her focus. Miles’ shifty but insecure white brother Eric (Clarke Thorell) returns from Southeast Asia looking for free rent and pitching a dubious entrepreneurial scheme.

Troubled by her own detachment from her cultural roots, Nina hires a Korean nanny (Satya Lee), whose old-world racist attitudes soon begin to chafe. Miles, in turn, looks with suspicion upon Reggie (Ron Cephas Jones), an African-American longtime resident on the block who extends a helping hand to the new neighbors while expecting his cut of all business transactions.

The least credible of the many conflicts Son heaps on her characters is Miles’ inability to be a father to Hannah, whom he refuses even to hold. An adopted heroin baby who grew up in an all-white environment, Miles is adrift with no sense of himself or where he came from, denying him the foundations to be a parent.

While Son’s dialogue is smart and enlivened by wry observations, much of this is articulated from a forced, post-therapy perspective that hangs as awkwardly on the play’s naturalistic frame as does the too-tidy resolution.

The actors all do credible work, and it’s a pleasure to see Oh back on a New York stage, her deft balance of droll cynicism and flinty abrasiveness channeled to convey a woman buckling under accumulated strain. But Greif in too many ways behaves like he’s still directing “Rent,” keeping the cast incessantly motoring around the stage in a state of amped-up agitation. Their anxieties become as enervating for the audience as they are for the characters.

Satellites

Public Theater/Martinson; 199 seats; $50 top

Production: A Public Theater presentation of a play in one act by Diana Son. Directed by Michael Greif.

Creative: Sets, Mark Wendland; costumes, Miranda Hoffman; lighting, Kenneth Posner; original music, Michael Friedman; sound, Walter Trarbach, Tony Smolenski IV; production stage manager, Martha Donaldson. Opened June 18, 2006. Reviewed June 15. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Miles - Kevin Carroll Kit - Johanna Day Reggie - Ron Cephas Jones Mrs. Chae - Satya Lee Nina - Sandra Oh Eric - Clarke Thorell Walter - Ron Brice

More Legit

  • All My Sons review

    Broadway Review: 'All My Sons' With Annette Bening

    Don’t be fooled by the placid backyard setting, neighborly small talk and father-son joviality at the start of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s blistering revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. There are plenty of secrets, resentments and disillusionments ahead, poised to rip this sunny Middle Americana facade to shreds. [...]

  • A still image from The Seven

    How Magic Leap, Video Games Are Defining Future of Royal Shakespeare Company

    At the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, Sarah Ellis has the difficult job of figuring out where theater of the 1500s fits into the 21st century. As Director of Digital Development, a title which might seem out of place in an industry ruled by live, human performances, Ellis represents a recent seachange on [...]

  • Gary review

    Broadway Review: 'Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus' With Nathan Lane

    Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen, two of the funniest people on the face of the earth, play street cleaners tasked with carting away the dead after the civil wars that brought down the Roman Empire. Well, a job’s a job, and Gary (Lane) and Janice (Nielsen) go about their disgusting work without complaint. “Long story [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Three Sisters review

    London Theater Review: 'Three Sisters'

    Ennui has become exhaustion in playwright Cordelia Lynn’s new version of “Three Sisters.” The word recurs and recurs. Everyone on the Prozorov estate is worn out; too “overworked” to do anything but sit around idle. Are they killing time or is time killing them? Either way, a play often framed as a study of boredom [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Hillary and Clinton review

    Broadway Review: Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in 'Hillary and Clinton'

    If anyone could play Hillary Clinton, it’s Laurie Metcalf – and here she is, in Lucas Hnath’s “Hillary and Clinton,” giving a performance that feels painfully honest and true. And if anyone could capture Bill Clinton’s feckless but irresistible charm, that would be John Lithgow – and here he is, too. Who better to work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content