You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Evildoers

You might be tempted to call "The Evildoers," David Adjmi's anxiety attack of a play receiving its world preem at Yale Rep, "Dinner with Friends -- in Hell."

Carol - Johanna Day Martin - Matt McGrath Judy - Samantha Soule Jerry - Stephen Barker Turner

You might be tempted to call “The Evildoers,” David Adjmi’s anxiety attack of a play receiving its world preem at Yale Rep, “Dinner with Friends — in Hell.” Though the playwright’s work, like Donald Margulies’ 2000 Pulitzer-winner, centers on a quartet of friends going through relationship reappraisals, Adjmi’s play lives in a wilder, angrier and more stylized world, where personal crises speak to a cataclysmic breakdown far beyond the privileged lives of its four characters.

The work gets a big, bold, first-rate staging, fearlessly and fiercely helmed by Rebecca Taichman and performed by an ensemble of actors who seem to be playing on the ledge of their characters’ lives. Production is sure to have future life, even as its brittle humor, heightened style and oblique second half might confound some auds.

Play begins simply enough with the two couples at the end of a long dinner, celebrating the anniversary of 40ish Jerry (Stephen Barker Turner) and Carol (Johanna Day). The ever-solicitous Judy (Samantha Soule) is doing her best to keep things upbeat through Jerry’s drunken spiel and Carol’s nastiness. Judy’s husband Martin (Matt McGrath) is strangely silent throughout, but when Jerry starts babbling about lack of “authenticity” in the world and Carol has snapped one zinger too many, Martin erupts in fury, telling everyone — including his wife — what he really thinks.

Scene shifts to Jerry and Carol’s sleek penthouse loft of glassed-in orchids, over-waxed floors and white neon flourishes, cooly designed by Riccardo Hernandez and lit by Stephen Strawbridge.

After the breakup of his marriage, Martin seeks refuge in the home of his always accommodating, everything-will-be-fine longtime buddy. But Martin’s newly sensitized self and his embrace of the “real” (he’s gay, too, he discovers) unsettles and unravels those around him. As status-conscious, neat-freak perfectionist Carol screams at him late in the play, “Something used to be between us, Martin. Walls. I want them back.”

But by that point in the play their private lives have been de-constructed and destroyed with Biblical proportions.

Adjmi is clearly a writer with a distinct voice, style and ambition. In “The Evildoers” he attempts nothing less than a reality check for the post-Baby Boom generation as it hits middle age — entitled-yet-ambitious, needy-yet-emotionally removed.

The playwright tears down the facade that masks veneer upon veneer with stinging detail, idiosyncratic loopiness and shocking incident. “Whose lives are our lives?” asks Judy as she responds to Jerry’s ramble about the need to connect to each other’s secret suffering. It’s a throwaway existential thought but it’s at the heart and mind of Adjmi’s dogged and wide-ranging pursuit.

But in the telling, the writer bites off more than he can chew — and that’s not just the severed tongue that winds up on the penthouse floor. Hitchcock, Updike, the Old Testament, quantum physics, Margulies and more cram the play as it sometimes careens from point to point.

But even as “The Evildoers” overreaches, the galvanizing cast commands the stage throughout. Day is a force of unsentimental, impenetrable power as the wife held together with steel will and a symbolic anniversary ring. Turner makes manchild Jerry an oddly sympathetic soul as he drifts in his blissful haze of booze and denial. Soule strikes the right note of nervous vulnerability as she transforms Judy from go-along wife to Bride of Frankenstein. And McGrath brings a confused exhilaration to the hyper-feeling Martin, even when he plays a monstrous version of “truth or dare.”

Popular on Variety

The Evildoers

Yale Repertory Theater, New Haven, Conn.; 480 seats; $58 top

Production: A Yale Repertory Theater presentation of a play in two acts by David Adjmi. Directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman.

Creative: Sets, Riccardo Hernandez; costumes, Susan Hilferty; lighting, Stephen Strawbridge; sound, Bray Poor; production stage manager, Joanne E. McInerney. Opened, reviewed Jan. 24, 2008. Runs through Feb. 9. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: Carol - Johanna Day Martin - Matt McGrath Judy - Samantha Soule Jerry - Stephen Barker Turner

More Legit

  • Broadway-Breakfast-Split

    Variety to Celebrate Second Business of Broadway Breakfast With Thomas Schumacher, Diane Paulus and Diablo Cody

    Variety has announced the lineup for its second annual Business of Broadway breakfast presented by City National Bank. Joining the breakfast on Oct. 7 is the president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions Thomas Schumacher, who will take part in the event’s keynote conversation. In his position, Thomas oversees the company’s worldwide stage productions, which [...]

  • Sue Wagner John Johnson

    Tony-Winning Producers Sue Wagner and John Johnson Announce New Venture, Wagner Johnson Productions

    Sue Wagner and John Johnson, seven-time Tony award-winning producers, announced Wednesday that they have embarked on a new theatrical business venture, Wagner Johnson Productions. Under the name, they will produce and general manage a wide scope of theater productions. One of Wagner Johnson Productions’ current projects is a musical rendition of “Almost Famous,” which will [...]

  • Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne

    Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne Starring in Broadway Revival of 'American Buffalo'

    Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell will star in an upcoming Broadway revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” The show marks Rockwell’s first appearance on the Great White Way since his 2014 performance in the revival of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love.” The five-year absence saw him pick up an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, [...]

  • Secret Derren Brown review

    Broadway Review: 'Derren Brown: Secret'

    Audiences love to be fooled, whether it’s with clever plotting with a twist, the arrival of an unexpected character or even a charming flimflam man with a British accent. The latter is Derren Brown, and he’s entertaining audiences for a limited run at the Cort Theatre, where he is playing head-scratching mind games and other [...]

  • Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica ParkerNew York

    Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker to Reunite on Broadway for 'Plaza Suite'

    Real-life couple Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are hitting the Broadway stage again for a reboot of the late Neil Simon’s 1968 play “Plaza Suite.” The staging will mark the Broadway directorial debut of Tony award-winner John Benjamin Hickey. Set in New York City’s Plaza Hotel in Suite 719, “Plaza Suite” is comprised of [...]

  • Derren Brown

    Listen: Derren Brown Spills His Broadway 'Secret'

    Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content