You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: Simon Stephens’ ‘On the Shore of the Wide World’

Blair Brown, Odiseas Georgiadis, Peter Maloney, Mary McCann, LeRoy McClain, Tedra Millan, Ben Rosenfield, C. J. Wilson, Amelia Workman, Wesley Zurick.

Who is Simon Stephens, anyway? Taking cues from his past work – “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” “Harper Regan,” and “Heisenberg” – the British playwright would seem to be someone deeply interested in offbeat dramatic themes like quantum physics, autism, and alternate realities. Judging from “On the Shore of the Wide World,” an older play (2006) currently being staged by the Atlantic Theater Company, the writer also seems to take an interest in old-fashioned domestic drama. But the British family on whom Stephens lavishes such close attention is made up of stock characters, each more boring than the next. Or maybe they’re just being British. Whatever, spending almost two and-a-half hours in their company is heavy going. Better bring snacks.

Introductions first: Peter Holmes (C.J. Wilson) and his wife, Alice (Mary McCann), are stuck in a marriage that has long lost its luster. Their older son, Alex (Ben Rosenfield), is in aching first-love with Sarah Black (Tedra Millan), but is so excruciatingly shy he may never make his move. Although the younger Holmes boy, Christopher (Wesley Zurick), is also in love with Sarah, he’s so hyperactive he may never calm down long enough to make his move, either.

The general air of dissatisfaction and disappointment that hangs over everyone seems to run in the family. Peter’s parents, Charlie (Peter Maloney) and Ellen (Blair Brown) Holmes, have settled down to a quiet life of petty sniping and squabbling – except for those moments of high drama when Charlie seems to be having medical issues. Or not.

The family’s secret hopes and dreams are modest to a fault. Peter would just like someone to appreciate his artistry as an architectural carpenter. Will Susan Reynolds, a pretty, pregnant client played by Amelia Workman, grant his secret wish? (Stay tuned – oh, don’t bother.) Alice would just like to feel like a woman, preferably in the appreciative eyes of a man more observant than her husband. (Will she find one? Stay tuned – or don’t.) The boys would like to get laid. And Sara just wants to have fun.

The problem isn’t their modest dreams; it’s the absence of poetry or passion in their expression of those dreams. Not even Alex, who seems to be the central character in this drama, gets a speech that forces us to sit up and listen. The hard-working actors are not to be blamed for the overwhelming blandness of the production. Director Neil Pepe clearly works well with actors, but the heavy-handed production work (a gigantic set, murky lighting, soporific music) dooms them to their dull characters and uninspired lines.

Off Broadway Review: Simon Stephens' 'On the Shore of the Wide World'

Atlantic Theater Company / Linda Gross Theater; 199 seats; $85 top. Opened Sept. 13, 2017. Reviewed Sept. 8. Running time: TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production: An Atlantic Theater presentation of a play in two acts, produced by the Royal Exchange Theater, Manchester, by Simon Stephens.

Creative: Directed by Neil Pepe. Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Sarah Laux; lighting, Christopher Akerlind; original music & sound, David Van Tieghem; fight choreography, J. David Brimmer; dialect coach, Stephen Gabis; production stage manager, S. M. Payson.

Cast: Blair Brown, Odiseas Georgiadis, Peter Maloney, Mary McCann, LeRoy McClain, Tedra Millan, Ben Rosenfield, C. J. Wilson, Amelia Workman, Wesley Zurick.

More Legit

  • Sutton Foster

    Sutton Foster Starring Opposite Hugh Jackman in Broadway's 'The Music Man'

    “The Music Man” has found its Marian, the librarian. Sutton Foster, the two-time Tony Award winner, will star opposite Hugh Jackman in the upcoming revival of “The Music Man.” She will play Marian Paroo, a small-town librarian who is initially immune to Professor Harold Hill’s charms. It’s a role that was previously performed by the [...]

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content