Anspacher Theater at the Public Theater
425 Lafayette St.
Through May 29, $15
The Public Theater’s 2010-2011 Public LAB season concludes with Jonathan Marc Sherman’s warmly entertaining, very funny Knickerbocker. On the surface, Knickerbocker would appear to be doomed from the start, a one-set play about a forty-year-old man hanging out in a restaurant, worrying over whether he is ready for fatherhood now that his wife is pregnant. But Sherman and director Pippin Parker work their way in and around the obvious clichés with just the right turns of phrase and small twists, resulting in a smart, insightful ninety minutes. The play takes place in Jerry’s (Alexander Chaplin) favorite diner, where he sits in a half-moon booth facing the audience. Over the course of six months, he meets individually with his wife, Pauline (Mia Barron), best friends Melvin and Chester (Ben Shenkman and Zak Orth), ex-girlfriend Tara (Christina Kirk), and father (Bob Dishy). Each scene cleverly reveals parts of Jerry’s past as he deals with the pressures of his impending future, every character offering different, sometimes conflicting advice. Chaplin is charming as Jerry, remaining calm and sane as Tara flirts with him, Chester tells him to head for the hills, and his dad infuriates him. Dishy nearly steals the show as the soon-to-be grandfather, putting on an acting clinic despite the limiting possibilities. In fact, even though the entire play consists of pairs of people sitting in a confined space, it never gets bogged down or boring. Knickerbocker opens May 19 and continues through May 29, with tickets a mere $15; the May 24 performance will be followed by the panel discussion “Childhood Memories and Grown-up Dreams,” with Sherman and filmmaker Alan Berliner, moderated by Public Theater artistic associate Jocelyn Prince.